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Rockford (IL) Register Star reports:

Mervel E. Wood, the last surviving founding member of the Wood Brothers Manufacturing Co. of Oregon, died Wednesday at age 94.

Wood was one of three brothers who started the heavy equipment manufacturing business in 1946. Woods Equipment, as it is called today, specializes in farming, landscaping and construction equipment and employed as many as 1,500 people in the early 1990s.

According to a tribute posted on the company's website last week, Mervel and his brothers, Keith and Leonard, were problem-solvers, risk-takers and entrepreneurs who delved into manufacturing during the post-World War II business boom.

The Wood brothers were known for their innovation, how they treated their employees and, of course, the iconic Woods Batwing mover, a flex-wing rotary cutter known throughout the farming and landscaping industry.

"It was always fun when we were young to go on vacation somewhere and see a Woods truck or a Woods mower," said Wood's son, Doug, 66.

Keith, Leonard and Mervel were inducted into the Association of Equipment Manufacturers Hall of Fame in 2012. Past inductees included Caterpillar, J.I. Case, and Deere & Company.

The brothers sold the business in the 1970s. Today, it is owned and operated by Blount International.

"Woods Equipment is recognized for its commitment to providing employees a safe, highly productive environment that rewards ingenuity and hard work - a tradition that was established by the Wood brothers and has been nurtured throughout the years as part of their roll-up-the-sleeves and lead-by-example style," the company's website states.

Keith, Leonard and Mervel Wood were inducted into the Association of Equipment Manufacturers Hall of Fame in 2012. Past inductees included Caterpillar, J.I. Case, and Deere & Company.

"Dad was always outgoing and friendly," Doug Wood said. "He had a smile and warm greeting for whomever he met."

Mervel Wood was born in East St. Louis and grew up in Alden, Iowa. He graduated with a mechanical engineering degree from Iowa State College in 1943. He served in the U.S. Naval Reserve from 1943 to 1946.

His first wife, Margaret "Peggy" Ritts, died in 1997. He married Ruth Gantzert Wright in 1998.

Survivors include wife, Ruth; sons, Stephen (Barb) of Rochester, Minnesota; Douglas (Debbie) of Benton Harbor, Michigan, Thomas (Catherine) of Longmont, Colorado; and James (Lynn) of Loves Park; daughter, Nancy (Greg) Wyatt of Kent, Washington; 15 grandchildren; and 13 great-grandchildren.

Services will be 11 a.m. today at Aldersgate United Methodist Church, 4055 N. Rockton Ave. Burial will be in Riverview Cemetery in Oregon.

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