Sylvia Upton Wood passed away peacefully on July 1, 2015 at Lakeland Medical Center in St. Joseph at the age of 81, surrounded by her family. Born on March 1, 1934 in Benton Harbor, she was the daughter of Frederick and Margaret Upton, also of St. Joseph. Her father was a founder of what is now the Whirlpool Corporation.
After attending local schools in St. Joseph, she graduated from the Emma Willard School in Troy, NY. She attended Northwestern University, and was married to H. William Fowler, with whom she had three children, Matthew, Sarah and Thomas. In 1969, her family moved to Camden, SC. She was married in 1974 to Maxwell Wood, who preceded her in death in 2013. In summers, she always returned to her family and hometown in St. Joseph.
She was a lover of animals, especially horses and dogs. Wood herself was an expert hunter/jumper, and rode in Madison Square Garden. For decades, she successfully bred race horses; one of them, Favorite Trick, won the Breeders Cup and the national Race Horse of the Year as a two year old. The only other two year old race house to achieve this honor is Secretariat. The annual Blessing of the Hounds ceremony marking the opening day of the fox-hunting season was held for decades at her property.
Sylvia, known affectionately as “Sib”, owned 8-10 dogs at a time at her house, and bred hundreds of them, including Seeing Eye dogs. Two of them became national champions. She was a national competitor in dog field trials, expertly commanding them to perform various tasks.
Wood was also a lover of music. She was the founder and Chair of the Camden Fine Arts Center. For many years, she served on the boards of Spoleto Festival USA and Chamber Music America. She was responsible for commissioning an opera, The Singing Child, by Gian-Carlo Menotti, founded the Upton Trio and personally supported various musicians in their careers. In 2009, Sib was awarded the Verner Award by the Governor of South Carolina to “recognize outstanding achievement and contributions to the arts in South Carolina.” The State also observed a Sylvia Wood Day in her honor.
In addition, she served on the boards of the National Steeplechase Museum, Kershaw County Hospital, Kershaw County Endowment, Frederick S. Upton Foundation, North Carolina School for the Arts and Camden Military Academy.
Wood was an avid sportswoman, enjoying golf and tennis. She was the Club Champion (golf) at the Point O’ Woods Country Club in Benton Harbor, MI in 1990, and had golfed a hole-in-one there previously. She also sang for decades in the choir at Bethesda Presbyterian Church in Camden. She loved bridge, often partnering with her sister, Priscilla Upton Byrns.
In addition to her children and sister, she is survived by her son-in-law Douglas duPont, daughter-in-law Nancy Fowler, step-son James Wood, step-daughter-in-law Judith Wood, step-daughter Alison Darch and brother Stephen Upton. Her brother David Upton pre-deceased her. She leaves ten grandchildren, Renee Cook, Carrie, Alexandra, William and Sophie duPont, and Scott, Elizabeth and David Fowler, and Emily and Maxwell Darch.
A Celebration of Life Service will be held at 3:00 P.M. Saturday, July 4, 2015 at First Congregational Church, 2001 Niles Ave., St. Joseph, officiated by Rev. Dr. Robert Braman. Visitation will be held from 3:00 - 5:00 P.M. Friday, July 3, 2015 at Starks & Menchinger Chapel & Cremation Services, 2650 Niles Road, St. Joseph. Burial will take place at Riverview Cemetery. Memorials may be made to Southwest Michigan Humane Society or Fine Arts Center of Kershaw County, 810 Lyttleton St., Camden, SC 29020. Friend wishing to leave a condolence may do so online at www.starks-menchinger.com.
Many people will remember Sib for her great humor and engaging manner. She was loved by the high and mighty as well as those much less fortunate. Her natural orbit was outward, constantly reaching out to others. She will be greatly missed by all.