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Nena Woody
Nena Woody

Nena Woody is a connection. Sure, at 94 years of age she connects us with a previous era, but she also connects us with something timeless, something we've moved away from, something maybe we should get back to. Nena Woody connects us with ideas of making things by hand, cooking from scratch, eating from your garden, living a full life rather than a frantic one, enrichment instead of depletion.

Nena lives in tobacco country of North Carolina's rural Piedmont, near Siler City. Nearing her home I turned down Woody Store Road (yes, named after her family's business) and pulled into the parking lot of the variety store that is owned by her son, Julius, who lives with her in the house next to it. I was nervous--I'm not southern, old-fashioned, or religious. But Nena's charm and hospitality instantly melted my fears, and we were soon sitting at her table eating pan-fried cornbread and tomatoes fresh from her organic garden. I spent the afternoon in her basement full of fruits and vegetables she'd been canning all summer and trying to keep up with her in her backyard garden, listening the entire time to her rich stories and beautiful laughter.

She told me she now lives a little over a mile from where she was born and raised with one sister and two brothers, on a farm that produced wheat, corn, tobacco, and cotton to be sold, sweet potatoes, peanuts, onions, apples, grapes, peaches, tomatoes, oats, beans, and peas to be eaten at home. "We planted cane and made molasses," she said, "and it was good. At least I thought it was back then--anything eats good to a youngin'." She told me how she married in 1928 to a man named Newton and as a wedding gift from her parents was given "a cow, eight hens, a rooster, and bedroom suite." She told me how Julius, after he came back from the Korean War, started raising hogs, but it wasn't profitable so the store was opened as a replacement, built by her brothers. She told me how for 20 years she worked at Rose's department store in Siler City "in the winter, and farmed in the summer, of course." They continued to raise corn and tobacco. Newton passed away several years ago and she told me she now spends her time gardening and hostessing her numerous visitors: "They love my vegetables--'cause people don't cook old-fashioned no more."

On a recent visit to see her my previous fears were distant, almost shameful, memories. I walked into her home and she was there wearing her apron and her smile. She put her arms out to the side and I walked into them, hugging her small, strong body.

—Brad Horn, 2003

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January, 2009 Update: Nena Woody passed away on December 16, 2008 at the age of 100.

Her obituary: "Nena Lindley Woody, age 100, of 2130 Woody Store Road, Siler City died Tuesday, December 16, 2008 at Chatham Hospital, Siler City. Mrs. Woody was born December 1, 1908 the daughter of Percy and Lula (Guthrie) Lindley.

"Mrs. Woody was a native of Chatham County and the last living graduate of Big Meadows School. She was a member of Sapling Ridge United Methodist Church, a member of the Parson's Committee and the Ladies Sunday School Class. Nena worked as a sales clerk with Roses Dime Store and enjoyed gardening and cooking. She was preceded in death by her husband, Newton W. Woody; brothers, Garvin G. and Irvin G. Lindley and sisters, Erma L. White and Emma L. Perry. She is survived by one son: Julius W. Woody of Siler City, NC; one brother: Marvin R. Lindley of Siler City, NC and several nieces and nephews."

I visited her last in the summer of 2008. I learned she had fallen four times in previous three years, breaking both hips. Amazingly she still had hopes of walking again. In fact, if her walker was left near her she would try to use it to stand and walk. It was an impressive display of personal determination to say the least. I will always be thankful for her friendship.

If her story has touched you please consider sending a card to her son, Julius, who now lives alone. Correspondence can be sent c/o his country store:

Mr. Julius Woody
c/o Woody Store
2130 Woody Store Rd.
Siler City, NC 27344-7089


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