Raleigh man, 106, stays on the go

Woodard still drives to dinner dates

Staff WriterAugust 12, 2009 

— When Bob Woodard went down to the local DMV office to renew his driver's license in July 2005, the examiner put him through a 40-minute road test to see whether a man who has seen more than a century of life was still able to drive.

At the end, the examiner told Woodard he was a safer driver than most of the people he tests. Woodard's license is up for renewal next year -- when he'll be 107.

Macon Watson Woodard, known throughout his long life as Bob, celebrated his 106th birthday early last month. Last Wednesday, Cary Mayor Harold Weinbrecht Jr. honored Woodard at a small ceremony in his home, wishing him many more happy and productive years.

There are dozens of ways to say Woodard has already seen a lot of life in his 106 years.

He was born July 8, 1903, in Wake County, during Theodore Roosevelt's presidential administration. He once owned a 1924 Ford Model T and has lived in the same wooden house on a corner lot on Western Boulevard for 54 years. He married Mary Ford in 1925; they were married for 53 years until her death in 1978.

Woodard is a dedicated fan of the Atlanta Braves, though the Braves only moved from Milwaukee to Atlanta in 1966, when Woodard was 63.

His daughters Dianne Bostrom, 65, and Joyce Byrd, 75, still refer to him as "Daddy."

Asked whether her father played baseball growing up, Bostrom answered, "I don't know if they even had baseball back then." Baseball does in fact precede Woodard, but he is older than the Chicago Cubs' 101-year streak without a World Series.

Time for many careers

As a young man, Woodard avoided military service because he was too young for World War I and too old for World War II. Instead, he operated his family's farm from the age of 15.

He got out of farming in the late 1920s, when his brother-in-law gave him a controlling interest in a Texaco station on South Saunders Street, a station he owned for 40 years. After that, Woodard got into real estate, a business he enjoyed very much.

"When a fellow went into real estate years ago, he made money," he said with a laugh. "I don't know how it is now."

Woodard's days are filled with activities he has been doing for decades -- reading the paper and checking the stock market -- and an activity men young and old have been doing forever: napping.

Going out for dinner

Woodard says he wakes at 7 a.m., reads the newspaper, makes his breakfast and takes a short nap. He then watches television, checks out the paper some more, and then another nap.

Then, he "perks up a little bit" because he has a daily dinner date with Nita Barbour, 85, whom Woodard has been seeing for close to two decades. Dinner has to be over by dusk, though. Woodard doesn't drive in the dark.

Woodard has adjusted well to the vast changes in technology he has lived through. He has a telephone and a cell phone, although he does not use a computer.

Bostrom said she and Byrd tried to teach their father how to use a computer once but had some trouble with it themselves, and he lost interest.

"He said, 'Well, if y'all can't do it, forget that,'" Bostrom said.

Feeling the toll of years

The 106-year-old has the problems that often come with getting older -- he has a pacemaker, uses a walker, has broken his hip and doesn't hear well -- but doesn't suffer from any serious conditions.

He was, however, forced to miss his 106th birthday party last month. The West Raleigh Exchange Club, a service organization Woodard helped found in 1946, held a party to honor him July 21, but Woodard fell in his house that day and hurt his shoulder. He has recovered well.

Woodard has held almost every office in the Exchange Club, but officially retired from it after breaking his hip eight years ago. He no longer throws out the first pitch of the Little League season at Woodard Field, though he's still in tune with what goes on.

"I told them I had to hang it up," he said.

For Woodard though, there's no retirement from life -- just moving on to the next birthday, the next dinner at Barbour's, and of course, the next Braves game.

gabe.starosta@newsobserver.com or 919-829-4520

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