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Thursday, February 20, 2003

Grandparents made city a better place

By ASHLEY WOODY for Black History Month

Laurie and Lois Woody
He will be 73 in a couple of weeks. He takes every opportunity to remind his children and tell his grandchildren about the many things their mother and grandmother did that made a difference in the lives of so many people, especially those in Geneva.

And every once in a while he may mention some of the things he was involved in.

I never had the opportunity to talk with her because she passed away a little over 22 years ago, before I was born. But I feel as though I know her because I can feel her spirit within the walls of our home and inside the boundaries of this city.

I can also see the fruits of her work. Not to mention the many times my aunts and uncle and her friends have told me stories about her, and how I remind them of her.

He is my grandfather, Laurie Woody. She is my grandmother, Lois Morten Woody. I have the deepest love and respect for both of them because of their love and caring for others. They worked side-by-side helping others around the city.

Granddad, who is feeling the effects of aging, has always taken the role of the family historian. He has taught us that if you don’t know where you came from, you can’t know where you are going.

He has told us about the demonstration he was involved in at the local Woolworth’s to get the store to hire more minorities. Even though he and my grandmother were employed, and their children were not old enough to work, they were concerned about the needs of others.

He has spent many cold Martin Luther King Jr. Days marching for freedom and peace with many others throughout this city. He is a man who would walk from his home to the nursing home to visit the sick and shut-in; some he knew, and some he did not.

Before long, it seemed as though all the patients got to know him and started looking forward to his visits. He would go bearing candy, fruit, a prayer or just a listening ear. I often answer the many phone calls for my Granddad, who is a deacon at his church, from people who need advice and guidance with the daily struggles of life, some members of his church, others not. Granddad will listen, tell them what the Bible says, and then pray with them. That is some kind of respect!

My grandmother was involved in so many things. She was instrumental in getting the Geneva Community Choir up and running. She played a major role in the building of St. Paul’s Missionary Baptist Church, which she attended and where she was secretary for many years. She was also very active in the Baptist Association, which included black and white churches.

She worked with many organizations throughout the city, including the Community Action Committee, Community Unified Today, Geneva Homes Improvement Corp. and the local NAACP chapter.

My grandmother was an advocate for peace and fairness and was named Woman of the Year by the local Baha’i congregation the first time the group had presented the award posthumously.

I cannot name everything that my grandparents have been involved in, but one thing that I want to mention is the victory they shared with several other parents, and members of the community, in getting school buses for the children living in Chartres Homes, now called Courtyard Apartments.

While living there, my aunts and uncle had to walk to Prospect Avenue Elementary School and then the Junior High School (now North Street Elementary School). My grandparents, along with many others, many of whom have passed away (Pauline Black, Catherine Reese and Mary Ann Mallard) fought a long, hard battle to get the school board to approve their request. Today, children of all grade levels can ride the bus to school from that complex.

I am proud of them for all that they have done to make this city a better place for their children, for their grandchildren and for everyone who chooses to live here and raise their families. As the Good Book says (Galatians 6:7), you will reap what you sow. And because my grandparents have sown good seed, their children, grandchildren, and many others, are bountifully reaping!

©Copyright 2003, Finger Lakes Times (NY, USA)

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