Harold E. Woodsum Jr.


Harold E. Woodsum Jr. passed away on Jan. 5, 2020. He was 88.

Big Ed had deep roots in Maine and always thought he would continue the family tradition of being a fisherman. He was born in Portland on Aug. 13, 1931, to Harold E. Woodsum and Ethel Maude (York) Woodsum. While at South Portland High, Ed earned nine varsity letters, three each in football, basketball and baseball.

Ed attended Yale University, where he played offensive end for the football team. He led the Ivy League in scoring in 1952 with 11 touchdowns and set Yale records for yards gained in a game, yards gained in a season, number of catches in a season and career touchdowns. During his senior year, Ed twice set the Yale record for the number of touchdown catches in a single game, a record that has yet to be beaten. What was remarkable about Ed’s success as a pass catcher was that he had very poor eyesight and did not wear corrective lenses while playing. Ed claimed his success on the football field was due entirely to the quarterbacks he played with, saying, “It’s a hell of a lot more difficult to throw it than to catch it.”

After college, Ed was drafted by the Cardinals of the National Football League, but was unable to join the team due to military service. Following service in the Army, Ed reported to the Cardinals’ training camp in 1955, but left before the start of the season to attend Yale Law School.

While at Yale Law School, Ed met Joan Patterson, a fellow law student from Honolulu and San Francisco, and they were married in 1957. Ed and Joan spent their honeymoon staying at a hunting camp deep in the Maine woods, a then novel experience for Joan. In 1958, after graduating from law school, Ed joined the law firm of White & Case in New York City, where he specialized in corporate work. Ed left New York in 1965 to return to Maine, where he became one of the founding partners of the law firm now known as Drummond Woodsum and MacMahon.

Ed, Joan and their family moved to Cape Elizabeth in 1965, where Ed was elected to three terms on the Cape Elizabeth Town Council. He was involved in saving from development the former military facility that would become Fort Williams Park, and, with two neighbors, bought property at Kettle Cove so that it could later be transferred to the state.

In addition to contributing to his local community, Ed also was committed to and held leadership roles with the Portland Symphony Orchestra, the Quebec-Labrador Foundation, United Way of Greater Portland, the National Audubon Society, Westbrook College, University of New England and Maine Coast Heritage Trust.

Ed served Yale in several capacities after graduating, and in 1979 was elected to the Yale Corp. Ed served as chairman of the corporation’s Investment Responsibility Committee, which was dealing with the sensitive issue of the university’s investment in entities doing business in South Africa, and in that capacity led a fact-finding mission to South Africa. He remained on the Yale Corp. until 1988, when he was named Yale’s athletic director, a position he held until 1994 and which allowed him to indulge his passions for Yale, athletics and supporting young people.

Ed and Joan enjoyed traveling together around the world, although their favorite destination was Hawaii, where Joan was from. Ed loved the Maine coast, and liked nothing better than being on the ocean or near the ocean.

Ed was predeceased by his wife, Joan, of 57 years and is survived by his brother, Ken Woodsum, and wife, Lorraine, of Yarmouth, by his children, Lee Jones and husband, KC, of Scarborough, Douglas Woodsum and wife, Donna, of Oakland, Rae Woodsum and husband, Mark, of Anchorage, Alaska, and Alix Wiggin and husband, Ken, of Starksboro, Vt., by his grandchildren, Kerry Jones, Eddie Jones and wife, Kate, and Andrew Jones, and by a great-granddaughter, Natalee.

El Supremo maintained his beloved sense of humor to the very end. Aloha, Dad — we will miss you.

At Ed’s request, there will be no service. The family asks that in lieu of flowers, a donation be made to Maine Coast Heritage Trust, 1 Bowdoin Mill Island, Suite 201 Topsham, ME 04086. Or to support the Joan and Ed Woodsum Endowed Scholarship at the University of New England: University of New England, Office of Institutional Advancement 716 Stevens Avenue Portland, ME 04103.

Know when to pay your respects.