Lester Horace Woodcock, one of the last surviving members of the original Sports Illustrated editorial staff, died peacefully at the Falmouth Hospital on July 25, 2021. He was 94 years old.
Les was born on June 30, 1927, in Amityville, N.Y., the son of Horace and Carol Woodcock. After graduating high school, he attended Lincoln Memorial University in Tennessee, where he played on the baseball team. After serving in the military in the Korean War as a cryptanalyst, he began his journalism career as a copy boy for the New York Sun. He was working at Time Inc. in 1954 when he was asked to join the editorial staff of a new sports magazine, to be called Sports Illustrated. After graduating from the Columbia University School of Journalism, Les was an editor and writer for Sports Illustrated from 1954 to 1968. During that time, he was asked to accompany many dignitaries and well-known people of the day to baseball games and the Kentucky Derby. Notable sports enthusiasts he accompanied include William Faulkner and Robert Frost. After his time at Sports Illustrated, Les became a freelance foreign correspondent in the Time-Life Bureau in Rome, Italy, bringing his family of eight to live abroad during that time. When he returned to the U.S., he spent the next 13 years founding three sports magazines and a regional lifestyle magazine, Long Island Life. In 1982 he began an 11-year run as the editor and principal writer for Major League Marketing, revolutionizing the way football and baseball cards were written. He took enormous pride in his journalistic career.
Les was a devoted husband and father, and loyal friend to many, gracious and quick to express gratitude for any small favor that was bestowed upon him. He will be remembered by many of the East Chop community as the sprightly older gentleman who passed them, smiling and waving, on his regular walks around the Chop. He enjoyed many community activities after his 2009 retirement to the Vineyard. He was a member of the First and Third Club, and served on the advisory boards of the Friends of the Oak Bluffs Library and the Oak Bluffs Senior Center.
Aside from his extraordinary career, Les will be most remembered for his ability to make everyone in his presence feel important, loved, and special. You were the most important person in the room. When we see a plate of shrimp Les loved, when the Red Sox beat the Yankees, or when we see a Sports Illustrated cover, Les will be remembered with a smile.
Les is survived by his loving wife, Mary Woodcock; a brother, Norman; three sons, Mark, Brian, his wife Debbie, and Kevin, and his wife Mel; three daughters, Kathleen Lopes, her husband Rob, Susan Woodcock, and Maria Schiavello; five grandchildren; and his former wife, Mary Gill. His family will host a celebration of his life on the Vineyard toward the end of June 2022, around the time of what would have been his 95th birthday.
Because of Les’s love for books and films, people wanting to honor him may donate to the Oak Bluffs Library or the Martha’s Vineyard Film Center.
For online tributes and more information, please visit chapmanfuneral.com.