Della Deloris Woods obituary photo
In Memory of

Della Deloris Woods

June 2, 1943 - September 8, 2017


Della Deloris Woods
June 2, 1943 - September 8, 2017

Surrounded by family at her bedside, Della Deloris Woods, age 74, passed away on September 8, 2017, when the single kidney she was born with failed.

She is survived by: her sister, June Joseph; by her husband of 52 years, Gerald Woods; by her son, Charles G. Woods with his wife Marsha Woods; by her daughter, Kathryn Fogg with her husband, Paul Fogg; by her grandchildren, Brandon Woods and Brooke Woods; and by several nieces and nephews.

Della was born on...

Della Deloris Woods
June 2, 1943 - September 8, 2017

Surrounded by family at her bedside, Della Deloris Woods, age 74, passed away on September 8, 2017, when the single kidney she was born with failed.

She is survived by: her sister, June Joseph; by her husband of 52 years, Gerald Woods; by her son, Charles G. Woods with his wife Marsha Woods; by her daughter, Kathryn Fogg with her husband, Paul Fogg; by her grandchildren, Brandon Woods and Brooke Woods; and by several nieces and nephews.

Della was born on June 2, 1943 to Harry and Venice (Daniel) Prince. Her family was not a wealthy one. Her father was a coal miner. Her mother was a stay-at-home wife and mother. While her parents may have been poor in material things, they were rich in their love for their children, as can be seen in the fact they made sure both she and her sister were born in a modern hospital, even though that hospital was located in Ashland, Kentucky, more than 50 miles away (over not-so-good roads) from the family's home in Tutor Key (Johnson County), KY.

Few people know that Della's first home was a two room "cabin" that lacked plumbing and electricity and that relied on a coal-fueled potbelly stove for cooking, warmth and light. After a few years, her entire family moved from the cabin to her grandparent's nearby two story farmhouse, which may have been more spacious but also lacked what are now considered essential amenities.

Della grew up in Tutor Key, initially attending a nearby one room K - 5 school. The teacher, recognizing she had a smart kid on her hands, often asked Della to tutor other kids in the school. The school administration, also recognizing her abilities, asked her parents for permission to let her skip two grade levels, going directly from second grade to fifth grade, where she would be more challenged by the school work. Her parents, concerned about how she would be affected when surrounded by much older classmates, refused that request but agreed to allow her to skip a single grade level. As a result, she graduated from the Johnson County public schools a few days after her sixteenth birthday.

While her teachers encouraged her to continue on to college, there were no suitable colleges nearby and her parents were not ready to send their 16 year old daughter off to a distant college. She abided with her parent's wishes, remaining at home for a year after high school graduation to attend Meade Memorial, a business school located in nearby Paintsville, Kentucky. She graduated from that school with a degree in Secretarial Science, acquiring skills that probably changed the course of her life, as will be apparent later.

While the whole family believed in the importance of education and wanted her to go on to college, there was little money available for that purpose. Aware of that fact, her favorite high school teacher recommended she look into the teacher's own alma mater, Berea College, a small college located in central Kentucky. Berea was (and still is) an unusual school in that every potential student, in lieu of paying tuition or room and board, had to agree to maintain a specific grade point average while working a certain numbers of hours per week in jobs assigned by the school. The available jobs ranged from the usual food service jobs to more unusual ones, such as tending to livestock owned by the school and being a fireman at the campus fire department.

Della thrived in the Berea environment during her three years there, starting out with a clerical job in the office of the Dean of Students and ending up as a Resident Advisor (basically, a surrogate mother) for a group of high school girls who lived in a special dorm on campus while attending a high school also on the campus.

Near the end of her third year, Della made another decision that changed the course of her life. Rather than return to Johnson County with hopes of finding a summer job there, she decided to look for a perhaps-better-paying summer job in Washington DC, where her first cousin, James Harvey Prince, was already working. Her hope was to keep the job for a year at most while saving enough money to cover her remaining year at Berea without asking her parents for any financial help.

After interviewing for a number of jobs, Della decided to take a job as a secretary/receptionist in the Washington Patent Operation of the General Electric Company. The Washington Patent Operation was staffed by perhaps a dozen young engineering graduates (all males at the time) who, during the day, did patentability searches for General Electric development locations, using the Public Search Room in the nearby US Patent Office. At the end of their normal workday, the searchers headed off to classes at one of the several night law schools in the Washington area with the goal of becoming a patent attorney.

One of those searchers was a young Iowa State University graduate by the name of Jerry Woods. Della and Jerry were drawn to each other by a shared fascination with the many historical sites in and around the District Of Columbia, a shared distaste for the alcohol-driven social scene that attracted so many other young people in Washington, and by a shared shortage of the money that would have been required to engage in that social scene if they had even wanted to.

As the time approached for Della to decide whether to return to Berea, the two decided to marry at the expense of her planned return to Berea. They were married in a Methodist Church in Arlington, Virginia on September 5, 1965, in a simple ceremony with a few co-workers and family members in attendance. The date was specifically selected to squeeze the wedding into a gap between a summer law school session Jerry was attending and a fall law school session he planned to attend.

After a brief honeymoon in the Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia, they returned to their first "home" in the Washington area (actually a small 2 bedroom apartment in Alexandria, VA) with Jerry returning to his daytime patent searching and evening law school classes and Della moving on to another job in downtown Washington; a move necessitated by a General Electric rule forbidding married couples to work in the same department.

By the end of 1966, Jerry had completed law school and had passed the Virginia State bar exam, leaving the two of them ready to move on to the next phase in their lives. They could not have known, at the time, that phase would see them living in seven different houses in five different towns in slightly over eleven years as Jerry moved from one job to another.

Their first move was to Roanoke, Virginia, where they lived until November 1969. When they got there, it was just the two of them. When they left, it was with their son, Charles Gregory, born in March 1969, a mongrel dog (Dumbo) and a Persian kitten (Snowball), the first of many pets Della took in over the years.

The second move was to Topsfield, Massachusetts, a picturesque village about 30 miles north of Boston. Their stay there was brief, lasting only until June of 1971, when both willingly waved goodbye to what seemed like endless winters filled with endless snowy roads and equally endless summers filled with endless swarms of mosquitoes that made their homes in a nearby bog.

The third move was to Edmond, Oklahoma, a moderately sized suburb of Oklahoma City. Edmond (and the rest of Oklahoma) appealed to them as having pleasing elements of both the American West and the Deep South culture. Della was finally able to return to her interrupted college studies, graduating in 1974 with a Bachelor Degree in accounting from Oklahoma Central University, a small school located in the heart of Edmond. She managed that feat while pregnant with her daughter (Kathryn Christine) who arrived in November 1974 to complete their family.

Della and Jerry fully expected to raise their family in Oklahoma. That was not to be. With no warning, the product development and manufacturing organization for that Jerry had been supporting was acquired by a competitor who quickly decimated the development arm of the organization, eliminating a large number of jobs, including Jerry's.

The fourth move, in July 1975, was to Wilton, Connecticut, a small bedroom community for Stamford, where Jerry had accepted a job in a private patent law firm. Their stay in Connecticut was a rocky one. By mid-1978, it was clear that Jerry's job future was less than they had anticipated, leading the family to make a fifth and final move in January 1978. That move was, of course, to Raleigh. More about that later.

While the places the family lived before reaching Raleigh could not have been more different in many ways, Della always found things (and people) in each place that resonated with her and made her happy. She was genuinely interested in the people she encountered. When the people she encountered realized that, many (including even the native New Englanders famously known as a dour and taciturn lot) responded to her and many warm relationships resulted.

As the family settled into their new life in Raleigh and as Greg and Kathryn became older and more self-reliant, Della realized she again had the opportunity to do something she had been unable to do for a number of years; namely, go back to working full time in a job she enjoyed with coworkers she genuinely liked being around.

Della had two jobs that clearly met those criteria. The first was with the North Carolina Parole Commission, initially as a secretary and later as an accounts payable analyst. She made lifelong friends with a number of her coworkers there and genuinely enjoyed being a member of the team.

Later, an opportunity arose for her to take on another job that truly fascinated her; namely, working for the North Carolina State Bureau of Investigation, initially as a records specialist responsible transcribing dictation from a number of SBI agents located throughout the state and for resolving any potential inconsistencies in the transcription before generating a final report for use by attorneys in the North Carolina Department of Justice.

Della loved that job and the people she worked with and the people she worked for, counting many of them among her closest friends. She held onto that job as long as she could, leaving it only when she concluded problems with her eyes and with her mobility would no longer let her do the job the way it needed to be done.

Della did not stop living when she stopped working. She stayed in touch with her friends. She thrived on the accomplishments of her family, and particularly of her two grandchildren . She lived life as fully as she possibly could.

She will be missed.

A Memorial Service will be held at Mitchell Funeral Home, 7209 Glenwood Ave, Raleigh, NC 27612. A reception will follow the service at the Funeral Home.