They describe it as a shotgun wedding. Literally.
On April 11, 2014, longtime valley residents Larry “Woody” Woods and his wife, Judy, celebrated their 50-year wedding anniversary. The two, well-known for their volunteerism and community advocacy, celebrated the day in Deception Pass, but not before helping to organize a local cleanup effort which took place at the Sultan Post Office the following day.
Recognized for their extensive outreach work, last year Woody and Judy were the Grand Marshalls at Sultan’s Shindig Parade.
The couple moved to Sultan around seven years ago, after having lived in Monroe for over 30 years.
Woody offered some advice to couples seeking longevity.
“Be best friends,” said Woody. “By all means; be best friends.”
Reminiscing about their early days, the two recently took some time to describe their non-conventional wedding, which took place after about a year of dating. When Woody went to visit Judy at her Lynnwood residence on April 11, 1964, she was out pulling weeds in her yard.
“Woody drove up; we were talking and he says; ‘Let’s go get married,’” recalled Judy.
Judy went in the house and grabbed a dress and a few other items of clothing. Once they secured childcare for her young son, Steve, the two sped off for Coeur d’Alene, Idaho in a 1958 Chevrolet convertible with barely $20 between them. Once there, they happened upon a wedding chapel called the Hitching Post, and recruited the receptionist to be their witness. The good-natured woman obliged, but only after opening up a closet and taking out a double barrel shotgun.
It turned out she had slightly offbeat sense of humor.
“She shoved it up to Woody’s back and said, ‘Get your butt in there,’” said Judy.
“She said, ‘This is a true, bona fide shotgun wedding,’” remembered Woody. “We were having fun and so was she.”
“I was still in my gardening clothes,” said Judy. “Never did get into my dress.”
For Judy, her relationship with Woody just seemed to click right from the beginning. Set up on a blind date by her sister, Woody took her to the Space Needle for their first date. He arrived at her door in shoes that didn’t fit and clothes that didn’t match, and was too broke to take her to the restaurant.
“I wasn’t real sure about this blind date,” said Judy, who was 22 at the time. “But I thought, ‘Well, his heart’s in the right place.’”
The two went up to the observation deck of the Space Needle, and the next day Woody, who was 24, sent her a dozen long-stemmed red roses. Judy admits that the roses won her over immediately, even after she learned that roses were Woody’s calling card and that according to his best friend, he sent yellow roses to the “special girls” while all the rest got red.
“You know, those red roses meant so much to me. I really didn’t care if the other girls got yellow. I got red roses,” said Judy. “I don’t think he ever really understood that, because to him, a yellow rose is perfect. I still have an affinity for the red rose because that’s what I got.”
“I was just thrilled to death with them,” she continued. “He didn’t have a dime to his name but he sends me a dozen long-stemmed red roses.”
And when Woody suggested that she marry him, on the spur of the moment, about a year later; it felt like exactly what she was supposed to be doing.
After they had been married a while, the two began to long for a baby. Woody had adopted Judy’s son, Steve, who was just about old enough to start school, so they figured the timing was opportune. After some health complications and a consultation with Judy’s doctor, they made the decision to consider adoption. Soon, the physician became aware of an adoption opportunity and he approached Judy to let her know.
“In those days, the doctor’s office could be involved in the adoption,” said Judy.
Following the meeting with her doctor, Judy went straight to Woody’s office to tell him the news and ask him if they could adopt this baby. They needed to make the decision quickly; the expectant mother was due in less than a month.
Woody agreed, but laid down the law in no uncertain terms. If the baby was a girl, he didn’t want it. If it was going to cause him to go into debt, he didn’t want it. And if the arrival of this newborn interfered in any way with his upcoming vacation; he didn’t want it.
“So I said, ‘Okay; it’s a deal,’” said Judy.
“We went into hock up to our eyebrows; had to sell our very favorite car to help pay some of the bills; (the baby) came right smack-dab in the middle of his vacation, and it was a girl,” laughed Judy.
“Everything was wrong,” said Woody. “But you know… We got that little booger when she was four days old.”
They decided to name their little girl Linda because it was Woody’s favorite name; he was partial to a song called “Linda” by Jerry Vale, a singer who was popular throughout the 60s and 70s.
“He loved that song,” said Judy.
Judy loved the name Michelle, so their newborn daughter became Linda Michelle. A clause in the terms of the adoption stipulated that they were to have no contact with the baby’s natural mother for the first six months of the baby’s life, or they would risk losing her.
“So for the first six months Linda and I stayed home. Period. We did not want to lose Linda,” said Judy. “She was the love of our life.”
And Woody quickly overcame his initial misgivings about having a girl.
“She had him so wrapped around her finger the minute he saw her,” said Judy.
When she was a toddler, Woody affectionately nicknamed the little girl “Runt,” a nickname which has survived the years.
“To this day, she’s ‘Runt,’” said Judy.
As it turned out, the little girl provided a lively contrast to their son, Steve, who was a mellow, easy-going child.
“Steve was a quiet kid; you could put him in a room, give him some toys… He’d just stay in there with his toys. He was a real good kid,” said Judy. “Linda, on the other hand, was a holy terror.”
She was also the apple of her dad’s eye.
“She was wild as a March hare,” said Woody with a grin.
Eventually, the two moved their young family to Vader, which is located south of Centralia, and from there to Silverdale, where Woody used his G.I. Bill from his service in the U.S. Marine Corps to attend school. Seeking a career in law enforcement, they ended up living in Rainier where Woody worked first as a deputy for the Thurston County Sheriff’s Office and then as town marshal for the Rainier City Police Department.
Financial struggles eventually motivated them to move on, and Woody decided to leave law enforcement in pursuit of a better paying career. He returned to the auto wrecking industry, the same field he had been in when they got married. Altogether, he worked in law enforcement for about eight years, at times with Judy, who served as the backup radio operator.
They set out for Snohomish County and after a brief stint in Machias, the two settled in Monroe where they lived on Woods Creek Road.
“My son had a lot of fun with that one in school,” said Woody. “Woods, on Woods Creek Road, on Woods Creek.”
Woody and Judy perform extensive outreach work that is a benefit to the entire Sky Valley community. They collect for the food bank, help at Sultan’s city cleanup days, and assist the Sky Valley Chamber of Commerce with many events such as the Easter Egg Hunt, Winterfest, the Return of the Salmon Festival and several others.
“Woody and Judy are genuine pillars of our community,” said Sultan resident and community volunteer Elizabeth Emmons. “They have so much heart and enthusiasm that they lift up those around them. They are some of the hardest working volunteers in town; they are so generous.”
And the two make an effective team.
“Ever since we’ve been married, we’ve always been equal partners,” said Judy. “Whatever we did, we did it together.”
The President and Secretary of the Sultan Lions Club, Woody and Judy have spearheaded several programs designed to care for the youth of the community. They have worked with the Sultan School District to provide backpacks filled with things like toiletries, shoes, clothing, books and toys. Their work has benefited school libraries, local police officers, kids, and has even encompassed victims of domestic violence.
“I think everybody should spend an afternoon volunteering with this awesome pair,” said Emmons. “They put the work we do into a joyful perspective. They don’t work for the recognition; they serve their community because they believe we all have the power to make the world a better place. Woody and Judy walk the talk.”
Together, they tend to the small garden surrounding the city’s Welcome to Sultan sign which is located on the south side of U.S. 2 as you are approaching Sultan from the west.
Judy is also a freelance writer and volunteers to write a column each week on upper valley community news for the Monroe Monitor called Notes from the Valley.
“Judy and Woody have been involved with the community for about five years but they have volunteered more times than some that have lived here a lifetime,” said Sultan Mayor Carolyn Eslick.“They are amazing.”