“Jane was a straight shooter who knew how to bring people together and get to Yes. A public servant,” a Facebook commenter wrote. Another noted, “She was always so kind and quite an unforgettable lady.”
Those sentiments represented how the Honorable Jane Haycock Woods, 75, was remembered by friends and colleagues who voiced similar thoughts from throughout the Commonwealth as news of her July 18 passing spread. Her friends could be found on both sides of the political aisle.
Born in Bethesda, Maryland, on October 10, 1946, the former Fairfax County first grade teacher earned her BA in education from American University in Washington, D.C. Her graduate work was in education administration, law, and business administration.
She had already spent almost 20 years in education before winning a delegate seat, beginning her journey as a long-time public servant for the citizens of Virginia as a member of the House of Delegates (1988-1992), member of the State Senate where she chaired the Senate Committee on Education and Health (1992-2000), and Secretary of Health and Human Resources (2002-2006). Her influence reached far beyond Northern Virginia as evident by comments from so many throughout the Commonwealth.
She walked through the fire of politics and survived. She has been remembered by those she touched along the way, perhaps none quite so touching as this from former Democratic Delegate Kris Amundson of Alexandria on July 19 when she shared a story about Sen. Woods on Facebook:
Jane Woods passed away this week. Here’s one of my favorite memories of a truly gracious woman.
I had just been diagnosed with cancer and was about to embark on the long, grim process that is chemo. Of all the things I might have worried about, I focused like a laser on my fear of losing my hair.
Then the phone rang. It was Jane, calling from Richmond – she was a State Senator at the time. She had just come through her own bout of chemo. “You’ll just get a wig and trust me – you’ll never have a bad hair day again.”
When I later got to Richmond, I realized how very rare any unscheduled moments were. But Jane wanted me to know that I’d get through chemo just as she had – and she used one of those rare minutes to make that call. Knowing how much it meant to me, I’ve tried to emulate her example ever since.
RIP to a wonderful Virginia leader.
“Jane was always a teacher and a warrior for good policy and public service,” Augusta County resident Holly Herman recalled about her mentor from Virginia’s General Assembly. “She was a tireless mentor to many (particularly younger women coming along), and a lover of acronyms (I’d always ask her to slow down and explain). She had endless energy and institutional knowledge and taught so many of us so much. We need more like Jane in our world. A lot more.”
Claire Guthrie Gastanaga who lived in Annandale when younger also shared memories. “When she was Jane Haycock, she lived across the street from us on Walton Lane and her mom taught piano,” she said. “As Jane Woods, she was an honorable person who served her constituents well and stood up for women’s body autonomy when most elected officials in her party would not. She was ever generous with her time and advice. I wish I had told her how much I respected her and liked her while I could. A life lesson…”
Similar sentiments were heard from others throughout the Commonwealth especially women. “What a great lady,” said one while another noted, “Always enjoyed spending time talking to her during the session. She was delightful!”
“I worked with Jane in Fairfax City when she was coming into her own political career after years of supporting her husband’s. She was always a class act,” added Sheree Brown-Kaplan. Longtime Republican Sandy Liddy Bourne recalled Ms. Woods as always being “a kind and thoughtful leader” who will be missed.
There were more comments left on Facebook….
“She was amazing and a joy to work with. I admired her goodness and her independence.” -Kirk T. Schroder
“We all grow by being fortunate to have ‘pavers’ of the way forward. My sympathy on the loss of this friend and ‘paver’ – generously spreading loving care and support.” -Cindi Bartol
“I will miss her beyond words, she was a wonderful role model for so many of us and a great Virginian. Thank you, Jane Woods, for being a friend and colleague.” -Marcia Tetterton
“She was definitely one of my favs!! Gracious and caring lady, and great legislator and public servant.” -Jeff Finch
In 1999 during Sen. Woods’ re-election in a three-way race that included an independent candidate from the right wing of the GOP, the Republican vote was split, handing the election to Democrat Leslie Byrne. However, recognizing the talent, dedication, and experience Sen. Woods brought to the table, she was tapped by Governor Mark Warner in 2002 to serve in his Cabinet as Secretary of Health and Human Resources.
Secretary Woods served in that capacity until her term ended in 2006, when she opened her own consulting firm, tapping her deep institutional knowledge and resources obtained from decades of service in the education and public sectors. Not one to remain idle, that same year she also joined the College of Health and Human Services, Department for Health Administration and Policy, at George Mason University.
Ms. Woods’ involvement in the community was extensive and included but was not limited to political campaigns. She also served as Associate Director of Virginia Girls State and served as President of the Fairfax Spotlight on the Arts. Other area participation included member of the Advisory Board of Prevent Child Abuse Virginia and on the Fairfax Futures and NoVaScriptsCentral boards. She also served as a member of the Amerigroup National Advisory Board, board member of the Virginia Health Quality Center, and on the executive committee of the National Capital Area Council of the Boy Scouts of America. And there were others.
On Friday, August 5, 2022, Virginia Gov. Glenn Youngkin ordered all U.S. and Virginia flags be flown at half-staff  in remembrance of this longtime public servant who served her community and the Commonwealth.
In accordance with the authority vested in me as Governor, I hereby order that the flags of the United States of America and the Commonwealth of Virginia be flown at half-staff on all state and local buildings and grounds in the Commonwealth of Virginia in memory and respect of former Virginia Senator Jane Haycock Woods.
I hereby order that the flags shall be lowered at sunrise on Friday, August 5, 2022, and remain at half-staff until sunset.
Ordered on this, the 4th day of August 2022.
“Well done, good and faithful servant.” -Matthew 25:23
-Washington Post: Jane Woods Obituary (2022) – Washington, DC