Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Family makes all the difference after tragedy strikes

In July 1955, a tragic car accident took the lives of four people when the vehicle they were in smashed into a concrete pillar just outside Pendleton. Ruby Lois Woods was one of the passengers that died instantly. Her husband, Jesse Boone Woods, died eight days later of injuries sustained in the crash. The Woods were from Yakima, Wash. Jesse’s sister and brother-in-law, the other couple in the car, were Pendleton residents (for the sake of family of the Pendleton couple possibly still living in the area, I won’t name them here).
As tragic as the accident was, each couple also left behind three children. I came across this story when one of the Woods children, April, who was two years old at the time of the accident, and her husband contacted me about finding newspaper stories about her parents’ deaths.

When I read this story, my first reaction (being a mother myself) was, “What happened to the children?” None of them were in the car when the accident happened. April was kind enough to share the rest of the story with me in an email after she had visited with her brother and sister.

April said the Woods children were raised by their aunt and uncle, Nellie and George McCandless, and their maternal grandmother Cora Henderson, who lived with them. Nellie and Ruby were sisters, and Cora was their mother. The McCandlesses had two children when they took in April and her siblings, and two more were born soon after, in 1955 and 1956. April said, “In every way, except for the first 2 years of my life, I consider Nellie and George my parents and their 4 children my siblings. I have 2 sets of parents and feel lucky to have been so privileged.” She added, “We 3 children were indeed fortunate not to have ended up in the foster care system.”

So what are the Woods children doing now? April followed her husband’s retail management career and they have lived in Idaho, Washington, Oregon, Indiana and Mississippi. April had a successful career as an accountant. When they retired in 2006, they moved to Colorado and started a second career in real estate. They moved to Boise in 2013 to be closer to her aging parents and continue their real estate business. They have no children.

Her sister Kathleen is married and lives with her husband in Alberta, Canada. They have four children and eight grandchildren. She has worked the last 10 years as a teacher’s aide for the local school district, and is looking forward to retirement. Brother Jesse worked as a draftsman for an engineering firm in Boise, Idaho. He passed away three years ago from cancer. He never married and had no children.

And the three children of their aunt and uncle? They were adopted by a couple seemingly not related to the family. The Woods children and their family was not allowed contact with them, and April’s knowledge of their lives after the crash is minimal.

April and her siblings were indeed fortunate to have found such a loving home. Their lives, shaken by this horrible tragedy, could have taken a much sadder turn. But instead the Woods children were surrounded by family that took them in, answered all their questions to the best of their abilities and gave them a strong foundation to build their lives on.

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