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Maxine J. Wood

Maxine J. Wood

April 20, 1917-July 1, 2009

Maxine Joanna (Stewart) Wood, was born on the 160 acre family farm in Garza County, Texas, the second child of six born to Loyd O. and Samantha Pearl Stewart. Maxine and her family lived there until they were forced to let the farm go back for lack of crops.

In 1924 Maxine and her family moved near Post, Texas where Loyd and Pearl rented and worked a farm. The next 11 years were some of Maxine's happiest, where she grew up in a farming community working in the fields along side her Daddy, picking cotton and even climbing the windmill to help him fix it .The dawn to dusk toil of farm life set the tone for the remainder of Maxine's life. She was never afraid of hard work and sacrifice for the good of her family.

By 1934 the Dust Bowl days of farming hung like a harbinger of defeat over the farm. Producing a profitable crop under those conditions was next to impossible. People from the farming communities had discovered that there was work in California-Maxine's Cousin, Mildred, was there and wrote to the family about the money that could be made. In July of 1934, at the age of 17, Maxine boarded a train in Texas bound for San Jose. She had never traveled more than a few miles from her family; she had $10.00 for her trip expenses and $25.00 that she borrowed from her Grandpa, Benjamin Stewart, for her train ticket. He had saved the money from his Civil War Pension of $10.00 per month.

Maxine and her cousin, Mildred, worked in a peach cannery in San Jose for 37cents an hour. After the peach harvest, Maxine and Mildred traveled to Monterey to work in one of the fourteen sardine canneries there. These are now known as John Steinbeck's Cannery Row. They were called to work by a series of loud whistles that let the workers know that the boats had come in to unload. They worked until all the sardines were canned, sometimes for 12 to 14 hours at a time.

In fall of 1934, Maxine's Daddy joined her to work in the canneries. By this time, another Texas farmer joined the Stewarts in Monterey. Wilbur Wood, a young man from a neighboring farm back in Texas, began working in the canneries and roomed with Maxine's Daddy. He began courting Maxine.

At the end of the cannery season Maxine and her Daddy traveled back to the family farm to help pack up and get ready for the entire family to move to California. Loyd and Pearl had given up on Texas farming, selling off all the farm equipment and looking toward making a new life. The drive from west Texas to San Jose took ten days, and there were times when the old car would completely quit. Maxine's Daddy would shout: "Mama! Get the babies out of the car I'm gonna blow it up!"

The Stewart family rented a two bedroom duplex apartment for the six of them in San Jose. Samantha Pearl had moved her sewing machine on the trip, and she began sewing dresses at $1.00 a piece for her Italian neighbors. Meanwhile, Maxine once again worked by her Daddy's side in the spinach fields and other local farming harvests to help support the family.

In early 1936, Wilbur Wood rode a cattle car to San Jose to continue courting Maxine. They were married at the San Jose courthouse on Jan. 25, 1936. Wilbur and Maxine traveled by train back to Texas where they rented an 80 acre farm. Their first home had no running water; Maxine had to carry water from the windmill. They had no car, just a wagon pulled by four mules. After they sold their first crop of cotton, Wilbur bought a 1928 two door Chevrolet that went 35 mph-top speed.

Maxine and Wilbur lived and farmed in Texas for the next 12 years and had three children during that time. In 1948, they sold their 160 acre farm and moved to California and then on to Talent, Ore.

Maxine worked at Rogue River Packing Corp. in Medford for a number of years. She also worked at the original Sacred Heart Hospital in Medford and was the first female employee at Rogue Valley Manor just prior to its opening. She was head of housekeeping there for many years.

Maxine was predeceased by Wilbur in 1977. After that she continued to manage the Texas farm which had been owned by Wilbur's parents. She was able to travel at this point and her favorite trip was a cruise of the Hawaiian Islands with friends. Maxine also made a memorable trip to New York City at age 77. She tromped the streets, went to Ellis Island and rode a careening, speeding taxi cab that swerved and weaved up and over a sidewalk to miss a parked truck. Her reaction was: "Good Lord have mercy!"

Maxine was predeceased by her parents; four siblings; grandson, James Walker; and by great-grandson,Tyler Walker. She is survived by sister, Nel Grooms, of Pacific Grove, Calif.

Maxine is also survived by three children, Dr. Jay L. Wood (Judy), of Talent, Ore., Margaret (Jeff) Maldonado, of Tigard, Ore. and Patricia (Robert) Van Sickle, of Medford, Ore.; seven grandsons; 21 great-grandchildren; and four great-great-grandchildren.

Maxine was devoted, loving, and very involved with all her grandsons. She rarely missed any type of sporting event and was once ejected from a Babe Ruth baseball game for heckling the umpire. She always had a full cookie jar. Each boy got a from-scratch cocoa spice cake for his birthday. She had the uncanny ability to get a full course meal on the table almost before a grandson reached the front door. Her pot roast, red beans and cornbread, biscuits and gravy, fruit cobbler and fried apricot pies are legendary.

Maxine was also a talented seamstress and a prolific flower and vegetable gardener. Her handmade quilts and other sewing projects were works of art and she sewed almost all of her daughters' clothing when they were growing up. She canned or preserved anything that the family didn't eat out of the garden. She lived a full, productive, courageous life and taught us all not to be afraid of hard work.

Maxine's one source of disappointment is that she did not get to finish high school. In the farming community where she lived, to finish high school one had to move many miles and board with another family. During the depression years, this was not possible for her. As a result she put a high value on the importance of education and always helped, encouraged, and supported those in her family who sought to better themselves. There are several of us who can thank our Mother and Grandmother for her unwavering support during our pursuits. She was very proud to have one child study to become a dentist; one to achieve a college degree in business; one grandson who became a doctor; one a physical therapist and two more who achieved college degrees in business, one adding a master's degree in education. Without Maxine's hot meals, rescuing us when our cars broke down, helping us with small children and even cleaning our houses at times, we may not have made it. Where her family was concerned, she was truly selfless and giving of her time and love. Thank you Mom! We honor you and all that you taught us. You will be so missed!

Maxine died at home where she had lived for 59 years. No funeral service will be held. A private family gathering is planned.

Maxine J. Wood