As an athlete and a scholar, few Fort Dodgers come close to Dr. Ralph Woodard.
Woodard, who died Feb. 5 at age 86, followed gridiron glory on the University of Iowa's football team by returning to his hometown and pursuing a successful 36-year medical career.
Woodard is survived by his wife, Martha Woodard, his three children Debbie, Maryann and Tom and seven grandchildren, including Kirk Cousins, an NFL quarterback who played college ball for Iowa rival Michigan State.
"We had opportunities to move all over Iowa and the Midwest, but Fort Dodge was home to us," Woodard told The Messenger in October 2009. "Both our parents were still alive and here in town, and with three kids, it was great to raise our family around them."
A 1945 graduate of Fort Dodge Senior High, Woodard lettered in football, basketball and baseball and received a football scholarship to the University of Iowa, where he played end for Dr. Eddie Anderson. During his first season at Iowa, Woodard was drafted into the U.S. Army, serving in the U.S. 7th Division until 1947.
Returning to the University of Iowa, during the 1948 season, Woodard was among a trio of Fort Dodgers - including his brother, Dick Woodard - in the Hawkeyes' opening lineup.
"If there are any more at home like those three, send them along. We could use them," Anderson told sports writer Dean Stichnoth in September 1948.
One year later, Woodard, who carried a 4.0 grade point average, received the Nile Kinnick Scholarship, given in honor of Heisman Trophy winner Nile Kinnick.
After receiving a bachelor of arts degree in 1951, Woodard entered the University of Iowa medical school, graduating in 1954. While completing a surgery residency at the University, Woodard assisted with the first kidney dialysis performed at the University of Iowa hospital.
In 1959, Woodard began his practice in Fort Dodge. Inducted as a fellow in the American College of Surgeons in 1964, Woodard eventually served as chief of surgery at Trinity Regional Hospital. He retired from active practice in 1995 and moved to Arnolds Park near Lake Okoboji.
Prior to his retirement, in 1990, Woodard was inducted into Fort Dodge Senior High's Athletic Hall of Fame. Woodard assisted several area school sports teams as a physician and helped start a program that provided free physicals for student athletes.
A service honoring Woodard will be held at 2:30 p.m. Friday at First Presbyterian Church in Fort Dodge. A visitation is scheduled prior to the service, beginning at 1 p.m.