Renee Menassa Wood, 89, of Palm Beach, passed away on Saturday, April 20, 2019.
Born in Cairo, Egypt, she was the daughter of Marie and George Menassa, an International lawyer and Judge on the Ecclesiastical Court. She was predeceased by her parents; her brothers, Elie and Tony; and her sister, Nadia. Renee married Joseph L. Gilbert, a First Lieutenant in the United States Army, who was stationed in Cairo during WWII. The couple moved with their two daughters to Johannesburg, South Africa in the 50's, after her husband was appointed Vice-President of Coca-Cola.
After their divorce, Renee moved to New York where she met and married Sam Van Alen of Newport, Rhode Island. Upon his tragic drowning in Nassau, Bahamas, she was offered a job with Van Cleef & Arpels, and rose to the position of Manager of the New York store. In this capacity, she entertained the CEO's of some of America's largest companies; International dignitaries, and representatives of the British Royal Family. Town & Country featured her as one of New York's leading hostesses.
In 1976, Renee married Dr. Walter A. Wood, a geographer, explorer, and past-president of the American Geographical Society and the Explorers Club in New York. They went on annual expeditions to the Yukon, in Alaska, and had homes in New York, Southampton, and Palm Beach. She was a devoted wife, and they were married for 17 years before he passed away in Palm Beach.
Renee handled some of the leading charitable events in the New York metropolitan area including: the American Geographic Society, The Seeing Eye Dog Foundation, and the Parish Art Museum in Southampton. In Palm Beach, she served as chairwoman of the Trustbridge Hospice fundraising gala and the Palm Beach Zoo fundraiser dinner dance.
Renee lived life to the fullest and will be remembered for her grit, elegant style, and sharp sense of humor. She is survived by her two daughters, Missy Abisaab of Beirut, Lebanon, Nora Jordan of Washington, D.C.; five grandchildren, six great-grandchildren; and her brother, Adel. Renee was a natural storyteller who shared fun stories and vivid memories of her extensive travels and life experiences. Her family will cherish and laugh about her stories for the rest of their lives.
A Mass was offered for her intention on Friday, April 26, 2019, in Beirut, Lebanon, and a memorial service in Southampton will follow, at a later date. In lieu of flowers, the family kindly asks for contributions in Renee's memory to the Trustbridge Hospice Foundation.
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