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Summer Recap 2023: What the Woodward team was up to this summer! Thumbnail

Summer Recap 2023: What the Woodward team was up to this summer!

The change in seasons and routine is always welcome for us at Woodward. As we enjoy these crisp North Carolina mornings here at our headquarters in Chapel Hill, it is fun to think back to our recent fun-filled hazy dazy summer adventures and activities. We hope you made some enjoyable memories of your own this summer, perhaps filled with sunshine and flowers, trips, or time with family. Check out how the WFA team members spent their summer:

Jim Miller:

This is probably true for every parent with kids still at home, but this is the summer that I truly begged for time to STAND STILL. My first born (Ava) graduated from high school in May and was headed to college in late August.  So, it was a race against time to soak up every last moment of “childhood” with her, and spend equally as much time with my other two kids (Mason and Liza) since they aren’t far behind her in flying the nest.

 We kicked off the summer with an important family function – my sister got married in Cape Charles, VA. In addition to my kids being part of the wedding ceremony, I was fortunate enough to be asked to officiate the wedding! It was both an honor for me and a really fun wedding weekend for my whole family.


Next up was a trip to San Diego, one of my favorite cities in the U.S., to watch Liza play in a soccer tournament. We had plenty of downtime during the week for sightseeing and building some lasting memories.


The grand finale of the summer was a college “send-off” vacation to a place we’d never been before – Hawaii! It turned into the best trip of my lifetime – a week of meeting some wonderful people, learning about the Hawaiian culture, eating delicious food, and exploring the amazing beauty that Hawaii has to offer.


The three months of summer, over in a flash, but none wasted, culminated in the three-hour drive northwest to Blacksburg, VA where I would drop off Ava to start her college journey at Virginia Tech. I miss her daily presence more than I could have imagined, but I am equally excited for this young lady who I know is ready to fly.  Thank you summer of 2023, we are grateful for you!

Vic Colella

The highlight of the summer was probably our trip to take Mia to meet my broader family up in Western PA. Since Mia was born around Thanksgiving last year, much of my extended family (including Mia’s VERY impatient great-grandmother, her first cousins in Cleveland, and many of her great aunts and uncles) still hadn’t had a chance to meet her. Fortunately, the 25th annual “Zambelli Family Reunion” was happening in mid-July, just at about the same time the weather was ideal for a week at my parents’ house on a beautiful lake in Eastern Ohio. We spent almost a full week enjoying the lake and quality time with family and made it back in one piece if not a few pounds heavier… family visits and way too much good food go hand in hand for my family (I’ve heard that’s an Italian thing).

Meanwhile, it was a summer of “firsts” for Mia. She’s checked some big ones off the list: her first solid food, her first tooth, her first word (no, it wasn’t Dada…), crawling and standing up, real pig tails, trying her first piece of dog food, trying to eat dog hair, and even her first swim in the ocean (which is very scary it turns out). She also discovered sand isn’t as tasty as it looks. We’re having loads of fun, and now just trying to keep up with a mobile 9-month-old, who seems to have a propensity for finding the most dangerous things in our house to play with. We suspect she’ll be walking soon… so please, keep us in your thoughts and prayers.

Taylor Cole:

My summer was full of little adventures, but the highlight is the two-week vacation I was able to enjoy before starting my position here at Woodward. To treat myself for landing the new job, I decided to rent a Dodge Charger to zip around in and wow was it fast! My journey started by taking exclusively back roads home to my dad’s house in Moreland, GA where my niece and two nephews were wreaking havoc.  After a few days of chaos with them which included go-kart riding, pool splashing, ice cream eating, and slime making, I headed drove north through the beautiful north Georgia mountains on my way to Brevard, NC. Along the way, I stopped off in Elijay, GA to do some light exploring and then onwards to Crane Creek Vineyards for a wine tasting at their beautiful vineyard.

I spent a few days in Brevard, mostly eating, hiking, and reading on the back patio of the cute tiny home I rented for the occasion. Of course, the weather was rainy the entire time but that did not stop me from hiking in the Pisgah National Forest and getting soaked to the bone. I saw a beautiful waterfall and stood on top of a very tall rock face, so it was well worth the trouble. Plus, rain is the best motivator to sit on a covered patio and read voraciously, maybe with a glass of wine in the vicinity.

Following my mountain adventure, I figured it was time to balance out with some time on the beach, so I headed across the state to Carolina Beach for a few days in the sun. I am so glad I had the opportunity to take some time for myself and, after nearly two weeks away from home, I came back refreshed and ready to start the next chapter of my life as part of the Woodward family.

Courtney Cubbin:

The highlight of my summer was going to Oregon with my boyfriend’s family for a wedding! It was my first time on the West Coast, and it was beautiful! We had great weather and plenty of time to do some fun activities.

 In between wedding festivities, we went for hikes and explored the area. We hiked to the top of Multnomah Falls and stopped by the Crystal Springs Rhododendron Garden in Portland. We stayed just outside of Portland, and close enough to Washington State to see it across river.

 The rest of my summer was mainly spent around Chapel Hill and Durham – taking my dogs for walks, trying new restaurants, and having friends come to visit!

Laura Tymas:

The highlight of my summer was watching my eldest graduate from UNC! The family took a celebratory trip to Miami afterward. I also had a great time at the Montreal Jazz Fest in July. We heard a bunch of great acts. Two stand outs were Thundercat, and Nate Smith with Victor Wooten and Cory Wong. (Look it up on YouTube!)

 I managed to beat the late summer heat by studying to pass the exam and earn the credential of FPQP, Financial Paraplanner Qualified Professional.

Wilson Li:

The highlight of my summer was undoubtedly going on an amazing trip to England with my parents, which was also my first-time visiting Europe. Our trip was centered around London, though we also visited some nearby cities such as Cambridge, Bath, Dover, and Nottingham.  

We were constantly in awe as we visited places with hundreds or even a thousand years of history. We visited the beautiful colleges of Cambridge and learned of some of their most notable alumni’s time there (Newton, Turing, Darwin) as we took a boat down the River Cam. 

We went to Dover and walked along its breathtaking white cliff. There we visited Dover Castle – one of England’s largest castles – and was fascinated to learn of its history in defense, and its significant involvement as recent as Operation Dynamo (Dunkirk Evacuation) during WWII. The weather was great that day and we could even see the French shore from across the Channel!

Other highlights were the Roman Baths in Bath - a thermae built and used by Romans almost 2,000 years ago - and Greenwich, home of Old Royal Naval College as well as having an amazing view of London. We were also amazed by the many cathedrals and chapels that we visited, particularly how they were built and decorated with an unimaginable amount of detail.

Finally, we ventured out to Primrose Hill while in London to find the house where Paddington the bear lives in the Paddington movies. My mom and I love those movies! If you’ve seen the movies, you’ll recognize Paddington’s neighborhood right away!

Laura Neal:

On June 10th, my family packed the car and drove over 1,000 miles from Tyler, TX, to Chapel Hill, NC!  We then enjoyed almost three weeks of “Life on the Farm,” renting an Airbnb between Chapel Hill and Pittsboro. It was a working vacation as I went into the Woodward office during the week while my family explored the area. The highlights included feeding the goats, chickens, donkeys, and horse, as well as our Border Collie/Blue Heeler mix finding her true purpose in life herding the sheep and cattle on the farm. I enjoyed some serious bonding time with Victor during three weeks of carpooling to and from work. We also enjoyed the 70- and 80-degree weather, the memory of which has sustained us through the record-breaking heat wave blanketing Texas this summer.  

Alex Richani:

My summer highlight was certainly my trip to Northern California in June! This was my first trip to California, and it was a big one as I was meeting my girlfriend’s family for the first time. I’ll go on record saying that a week-long meeting of the parents (staying in their house no-less) had “Meet the Fockers” potential. I’m happy to say that this was NOT the case!

 We stayed busy, hanging out with her parents, siblings, niece, and two nephews. I was also shown the immense natural beauty of North California. We spent time hiking around the Yuba river, which was very fast flowing because of the rainy summer, as well as the Carr and Feely lakes in Tahoe (yes that is snow in the picture). We also had the chance to take the boat out on Bullards Bar for lunch and a competitive game of cribbage.

 Later this summer we took a more conventional summer vacation to Kitty Hawk on the outer banks. While most of our time was spent lounging in the sand, we did manage to dig ourselves out for a long bike ride and a walk through the Wright Brothers Memorial before the trip ended.

Elizabeth Eastman:

Did you know male buffalo will growl to get the attention of the females? I happened to be in the right place at the right time to hear it up close and in person while on vacation in Yellowstone National Park this summer!

My husband and I dropped off our two kids for a week at “Grandma Camp” and headed to Big Sky, Montana. We expected the highlight of the park to be the famous geyser, Old Faithful. Much to our surprise, merely expecting it diminished the experience of seeing it. Instead, we were completely blown away by the rest of the scenes around the park.

We were completely clueless about the multitude of steamy pools and geysers, aside from Old Faithful. Wooden pathways enabled us to walk among acres of steamy ground, revealing water features in every color of the rainbow, ranging in temperatures up to 140 degrees and varying acidy levels, including some bubbling mud volcanoes with the same pH of battery acid, and an overwhelmingly strong sulfur fragrance. Can sulfur be rotten? (It was 10 times stronger than any natural gas smell, nearly unbearable!) We did not expect to see waterfalls, mountains, rolling plains, hundreds of buffalo, a giant lake, and a canyon, which was comprised completely of yellow rock, of course.

We’re usually beach people, but are so thankful we decided to take a mountain trip this year. While we enjoyed having some time away, we’re already planning to go back soon to show our kids the magnificent beauty of Yellowstone.

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