Linda J. Woodard 1938-2021
Updated: Jun 26
Linda Jane Woodard passed away peacefully at her family’s home in Tampa, Florida on June 10, 2021, after a short but hard-fought battle against cancer.
Linda was born in Lewiston, Maine on July 6, 1938. Growing up in neighboring Auburn on Gamage Avenue, she had a series of adventures with her pal Sheldon along with summer escapades on Sabbatus Lake with a gang of kids including cousin Althea and her brother Lendall, all under the watchful eye of her beloved Grammy Della. She met her future cousin-in-law and lifelong friend, Wanda, at Girl Scout Camp and rang in 1952 in Times Square with a Youth Group led by the wonderful Rev. Harwood.
A 1956 graduate of Edward Little High School where she played the clarinet in the marching band, Linda was never enamored with academics. Yet she was a constant reader and became quite an authority on 19th and 20th century American and British history including military history. Linda was herself a veteran, having joined the Navy in 1956 as soon as her father gave his permission (a gender based requirement in those days which forever irked her).
Trained as a medic, her tour of duty with the Navy began her lifelong enchantment with travel. Stationed first in Charleston, S.C. she then drove with a nurse friend across the pre-interstate country for her second duty station on Treasure Island in San Francisco. In 1964 she reprised that transcontinental adventure with her mother beside her in the passenger seat of an in adorable but impractical little red MGB roadster. Her tour with Navy imbued her with a sense of discipline she never lost as well as a lifelong aversion to chicken. She acquired many friends in the Navy with whom she remained forever connected including boot camp buddy Cindy Robinson whose special needs daughter Robyn was close to Linda’s heart and her dear friend and mentor, Marge Rollins, who at 94 survives her in Summerville, S. Carolina.
Upon discharge Linda returned home and was soon hired by New England Tel & Tel (later Nynex). For the next 30 years she was a dedicated telephone company employee, starting as an operator but then opening positions previously closed to women including logistics and materials management, with lots of travel in Maine and northern New England. She forged many friendships in the phone company, especially with chums Lois Foote and Linda Jordan. Lois predeceased Linda in 1986, but Linda, a fellow canoeing enthusiast, remained a close friend to the end.
Linda eventually moved to Lisbon, built a house far down the Ferry Road and traded in her sedans for a Ford Bronco – long before buying SUVs was fashionable. Her practicality would ultimately focus her brand loyalty to Subaru of which she ultimately owned five. She was proud of her home in Lisbon and worked hard to tame her environs even when she had several memorable run-ins with poison ivy. Her nephews Steve and Jon with their friends would add some youthful muscle to getting her yard work done in exchange for some of Lois’s delicious cooking.
Notably during this time Linda became the first woman elected to the Lisbon Board of Selectmen –she said she ran to get the potholes in her road fixed. But she learned a lot more while being on the Board that she never forgot and she was forever grateful to the friendship and tutelage of another important mentor, John Jalbert.
Love of animals was certainly part of Linda’s identity. As a child, her family always had cats and dogs. Witnessing the mistreatment of some animals early in her life made Linda particularly empathetic to animals later on. She took in many stray cats in Lisbon and later worked on a project to control feral cats in Tampa. Each cat, e.g. Lady Jane, Bonnie, Clyde and Alexander, she understood as unique individuals. However it was her cat Henry, who lived for 20 years despite being maimed by a dreadful car accident early in life, who had the greatest impact on Linda.
Retiring in 1990, Linda relocated to Tampa, Florida where she was part of her sister Laurie’s extended family. She was always around to celebrate birthdays, pick up kids from school and attend recitals. One of her family’s fondest memories is sailing with her on Thanksgiving to a small island in Tampa Bay where all waded ashore for a beach Thanksgiving picnic. New friends in Tampa included neighbor Walter Bradbury whose financial guidance helped her find security during retirement - fortunate since her Linda’s travel really accelerated during those years. With various Navy, Maine and Tampa friends she crisscrossed the US and even took the mail boat from Seattle up the coast of Alaska. Most importantly she became close friends with Amy Melia with whom she had several amazing cruises in the Mediterranean, around South America to Antarctica and around Australia/New Zealand. Recalling the sites of beauty and history in Istanbul and Greece in her final days, Linda never lost her sense of wonder and awe from exploring the world. Amy and Linda, opposites in many ways, discovered through travel that they were highly companionable and for the last 15 years they shared a home where Linda once again assumed charge of yard duties.
Linda was an independent and strong woman. Like her paternal grandmother, aka Nana/Susie Woodard, Linda was a direct and forthright woman who spoke her mind and often chose the less conventional path. She was generous and fiercely loyal to friends and family. She had a far-flung assemblage of people across the country with whom she stayed in regular contact. Among them were Harvey and Diane Dorr, friends from Vermont, whose relationship harkened back to Woodard ties several generations past. Linda’s sharp mind, personal decency and authenticity amplified by her love and kindness to friends and family will be greatly missed but fondly remembered.
Linda was predeceased by her parents, Harold and Radelle Woodard, her brother, Lendall, and her infant sister, Jean. She is survived by her dear friend, Amy Melia, her sister Laurie (Donald Smith), sister-in-law Sylvia, nieces Susan (Michael) Poto, Anika Smith and nephews Jon (Cheryl) Woodard, Steven (Michelle) Woodard and Keir Smith. Grand, great grand and step nieces, nephews include Abby (Jake) Casper, children Abby, Jon and Mathilda, Megan Poto, Noah (Victoria) Poto, children Henry and Zack Welch, Alexandra and Cameron Woodard, Dan (Cassidy) Woodard children Daniel and Leighton, Samuel (Alexis) Woodard and Grace Woodard. Cousins include Wanda Smith, Althea Willey and Natalie McCarthy.
Linda’s family would like to acknowledge and thank the many professionals at Tampa General Hospital, Kindred Home Health, Lifepath Hospice and Davita dialysis centers for their compassionate care. They would like to especially single out Sarah Sinatra, Angella Wright and Jean Aertker for all the care and support they provided Linda during her final days. And they would like to extend a special thank you to Dr. Elizabeth Warner, who was in Linda’s words “the best doctor I ever had”.
No services have been planned at this time, but gifts to honor Linda’s military service may be made in her name to the Women’s Military Memorial (womensmemorial.org).