Mrs. Woodworth touched the hearts of all she encountered, from the children she cared for through her work as an assistant in the then-Child Welfare Services, as a Sunday school teacher at Altus First Presbyterian Church, as babysitter to many in the Altus community and, most important, as devoted daughter, sister, wife, mother and grandmother to her beloved family.
Mrs. Woodworth was born Grace LaDell Cross to James Theo Cross and Janie Bell Cross on Nov. 19, 1923, on the family farm near Friendship, seven miles east of Altus. Her parents were Oklahoma pioneers, farming wheat and cotton and also serving as civic leaders in their rural community. They raised a family of seven children, of which Mrs. Woodworth was the fifth-born.
An alumna of Ozark High School, Mrs. Woodworth attended Altus Junior College and studied secretarial skills. She was an avid tennis and basketball player, and loved to sing and play the piano.
In 1941, she married Altus High School wrestling star Billy Lee Shelton, who served in the U.S. Army during World War II and was injured in the Battle of the Bulge. Their daughter, Lila Carole Shelton, was born in 1943 in Altus. After Mr. Shelton returned from the war, the family moved to Norman, living in Sooner City, so he could complete his education in journalism on the G.I. Bill. Their son, William Jan Shelton, was born there in 1946.
The family soon moved to Wichita Falls, Texas. After the couple divorced in 1952, Mrs. Woodworth and the children returned to live in Altus. In her more than three decades at Child Welfare Services, Mrs. Woodworth performed a wealth of duties that contributed to the safety of children in need, sometimes even bringing them into her home.
Throughout her life, her children were never surprised to hear stories of how much Mrs. Woodworth was loved and admired by all who knew her. The compliments were so commonplace, her daughter and son joked they tired of hearing the stories.
Her faith and commitment to her church was evident in her years of service as a choir member, Sunday school teacher and nursery caregiver. It was at First Presbyterian Church in Altus that she met Charles H. Woodworth III, a traveling tobacco salesman. They were introduced by the church’s pastor, the Rev. Dr. H. Addison Woestemeyer, who married them in 1957.
Mr. Woodworth sold autos and real estate before becoming owner of Arrow Van Lines on South Main. The couple retired and lived in Altus until moving in 1993 to Winston-Salem, N.C., to live near daughter Carole Shelton Deaton and her family. The Woodworths joined Mt. Tabor United Methodist Church in Winston-Salem. After nearly 47 years of marriage, Mr. Woodworth died in 2004. Mrs. Woodworth soon moved in with the Deatons, who lovingly cared for her until her death.
Mrs. Woodworth was also preceded in death by a step-grandson, Danny Charles Woodworth, a sister, Sue Jane Cross McPhail and brothers, Ray Cross, James Cross and Roy Cross. She is survived by her daughter, Lila Carole Deaton and her husband, Carter, of Bath, N.C., and also her son, William Shelton and his wife, Gretchen Letterman, of St. Petersburg, Florida; stepson, Ted Woodworth and his wife, LaJean, of Imperial, Missouri; and stepdaughter, Susan Woodworth Blueher and her husband, Kerry, of Oklahoma City.
She was Grandma Dell to Claudia Deaton of Wilmington, N.C.; Jennifer Deaton Bouldin and her husband, Brian, of Winston-Salem; Annagrace Letterman Shelton and Liam Letterman Shelton of St. Petersburg, and step-grandchildren Rick Woodworth, Deborah Lawrence, Bradley Mardis and Brett Mardis. She had two great grandchildren, Madison Bouldin and Carter Bouldin of Winston-Salem.
Mrs. Woodworth is also survived by two sisters, Doris Cross Collins of Roswell, N.M., and Theola Cross Leenhouts of Oklahoma City. She is interred in Winston-Salem alongside Mr. Woodworth.
The family gathered in North Carolina for Thanksgiving week, and what would have been Mrs. Woodworth’s 90th birthday, to celebrate her and give thanks for her life.