In the blink of an eye Bob Woods knew that he had met his match — it was March 19, 1967 in Dunoon, Scotland. Léone, now his wife of more than 50 years, receives some teasing for not remember as quickly the exact date their paths crossed, but she agrees his tenacity left an impression during a party where they first met.
“He pushed my date aside and didn’t leave my side the entire night,” jokes Léone. “That began a lovely courtship and we were married a year and a half later.”
Léone, a native of France, had been working on her Master’s degree in English, spending a year teaching and tutoring in Scotland. Bob was an officer in the U.S. Navy working on diesel and nuclear submarines on the Holy Loch in Dinoon. Shortly after their marriage, Bob turned down a chance for a promotion to Lieutenant Commander in the Navy, to move back to the United States with his bride.
“My father didn’t want me to marry an American, but he formed a close bond with Bob even though they didn’t speak the same language,” Léone says. “They shared a quality of intensity, love of learning and of sports cars.”
“I think my Alfa Romeo 2600 Spider helped to win him over,” Bob adds.
The couple returned annually to France and in retirement over the last decade they have split their time between the U.S. and France spending 5 months abroad. They have continued to live a life of exploration and education, following their passions of scuba diving, skiing, sailing and travel which have fueled their five decades together.
Building a Life in the States
Bob and Léone arrived in the U.S. on the East Coast, but both were tired of living in cold weather cities. They picked up the Alfa Romeo in Charleston, South Carolina for a journey across the U.S. where they first stopped in Chicago to see Bob’s family, and continued on Route 66 to the West Coast. California felt like paradise, however Los Angeles wasn’t quite right. They had planned to travel all the way to Seattle, but after stopping for a weekend in San Francisco, Bob and Léone never left.
“We stayed in San Francisco a few years before moving to the Peninsula,” Bob says. “Our son, Mark, was born at Mills-Peninsula, it has been a lovely community for us.”
Léone taught foreign language in high school and Bob worked as a physicist first in the semiconductor industry and ultimately in biotech where he flourished. They retired in 2009 to continue to pursue their love of scuba diving and exploration.
“We don’t have a bucket list, but we have been fortunate enough to follow many interests,” Léone says. “We have had incredible adventures and made life-long friends scuba diving around the world.”
Bob and Léone’s love of the sea leads to countless memories and a special bond with the octopus.
“On a night dive once in Mexico, we saw an octopus appearing to have trouble climbing up a pier, slipping down and changing color furiously, in what we thought was frustration,” Bob says. “Once we returned to shore, the dive master told us the octopus was putting on a performance as we shone our lights on it. That intelligence left us in awe.”
The couple no longer dive due to health concerns, but their memories endure.
Health Scare at Home
In 2016, while playing cards at home — and losing to Léone — Bob had a funny sensation on the right side of his chest and eventually across his chest. Léone wasted no time, driving him to the Emergency Department at Mills-Peninsula where he was rushed into surgery with cardiologist, Joseph Walsh, M.D.
“The next 5 hours were the longest of my life,” Léone says. “I finished 3 crossword puzzles, 2 sudokus, read all the newspapers in the waiting area and still no word on Bob’s condition. When Dr. Walsh finally emerged I learned that Bob was stable, but appreciated Dr. Walsh’s honesty that Bob’s case was very tricky—there was a chance he wouldn’t make it.”
Bob would undergo a second surgery and weeks of cardiac rehab, but he is feeling pretty good these days. He is extremely grateful for the expert care he received from the entire team at Mills-Peninsula.
But his healthcare is not the only thing he is thankful for, because Léone is a breast cancer survivor. Since 1997 Leone has been under the care of Harriet Borofsky, M.D., who helped surgeons precisely locate her breast cancer tumor for biopsy. Dr. Bruce Allen performed the lumpectomy but based on its invasiveness recommended a mastectomy, which he also performed.
“Dr. Borofsky is such a wonderful doctor, her smile lights up a room and even when she is delivering bad news, she makes patients feel at ease,” Léone says.
On another occasion Léone had a lipoma removed from her abdomen and remembers her surgeon, Dr. Allen, asking her if she wanted to see it after the lumpectomy.
“He was dangling it right in front of me before I could even answer,” Léone recalls. “But that really showed me his enthusiasm and dedication to his craft.”
Both of these health scares increased the couple’s interest in Mills-Peninsula.
“You don’t want to be sick, but if you do have trouble, Mills-Peninsula is the only place to go,” Bob says.
Leaving a Legacy
Bob and Léone regularly attend education sessions at the hospital to learn about the latest technologies and innovations. They have followed the work of Dr. Walsh and were extremely impressed by the mobile stroke unit, becoming one of the largest single donors to help bring the unit and clinical research to Mills-Peninsula. They have also supported Dr. Borofsky’s work to bring 3D mammography to the community along with the latest technologies for breast cancer care and detection.
More recently, Bob and Léone decided to make Mills-Peninsula a beneficiary in their estate plan. The couple had begun philanthropic partnerships with the Coral Reef Alliance because of their love of scuba diving and seeing firsthand the destruction of coral all around the world. They also had an interest in supporting the American Cancer Society but realized that it was already a well-funded organization and they wanted to support an organization where they could make a bigger impact.
“By including Mills-Peninsula in our estate plan, we see an opportunity to make a lasting impact on the quality of care in the community,” Bob says. “We know that we will continue to benefit from the state-of-the-art technology at Mills-Peninsula and we are very grateful for the care we have received.”