Most Garner residents with a garden knew Anna Hudson.
She was known as the “seed lady” around town. If you needed advice on how to plant some potatoes, corn or tomatoes, Hudson was your go-to lady.
But last Friday she died at home. She was 89.
She was the co-founder of Hudson’s Hardware store along with with her husband and became one of the town’s long-time civic leaders.
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Born and raised in Powellsville, N.C., a town of less than 300 in Bertie County, Hudson moved to Raleigh in 1946 when she was 20. She worked at the Methodist Orphanage where she met her husband, Sam H. Hudson, Jr. There she raised 38 boys for more than six years, according to her obituary.
A mother of two sons – Howard and Leigh – she and her husband moved to Garner and founded Hudson’s Hardware & Outdoor Equipment on 305 Benson Road in 1958. The store remains on Benson Road today, with another one in Clayton. She continued to work at the store until 2013.
Her son, Leigh Hudson, 61, said his mother would weigh out more than 20,000 bags of garden seeds a year and write on each bag. After that she would organize them in a bin where customers could select the packets they wanted.
“I told my mom we could put stickers on them that would say how many ounces each were instead of writing them on each bag but she would say ‘No. (The customers) want to see my hand-writing,’” Leigh Hudson recalled.
He said she was an expert in teaching people how to plant their gardens, and did so until she couldn’t do it anymore.
Town council member Gra Singleton worked for Anna Hudson for 18 years at the hardware store. He said Hudson’s Hardware was the foundation of Garner. It was built before U.S. 70 and other surrounding businesses and subdivision.
Singleton said he saw many people day-after-day asking her for advice on how to plant certain foods. She would always help, Singleton said.
“She helped so many people and people appreciated that extra touch,” he said. “If you go and help people and go that extra mile, then people will come back and do business with you.”
Singleton said he can still hear her voice today.
“She would tell people no matter how old they were, ‘You’re a sweet boy,’ he said.
“I can hear her saying it right now.”
The senior center
Many around town describe Hudson as determined.
“If she set her mind to do something that she felt strongly about then she made it happen,” Faye Gardner, board member of the veterans advisory committee, said. “And that is evident because of the senior center.”
Anna Hudson led the effort to build the senior center in the late ’80s. Looking for a place to go dancing with her husband, she lobbied county commissioners and town council members to donate land and match the funds they would raise so they could have the senior center built. The council said they would do match her if she was able to raise enough. Some believe the council agreed thinking she couldn’t do it.
Hudson started a committee, Garner Senior Center Inc, establishing a nonprofit to raise funds in the community by selling bricks and plaques. Donations from local businesses and private citizens poured in and sure enough she and others eventually raised about $400,000 in less than a year to the surprise of council members.
After finally winning support from county commissioners and council members, the center was built in 1991.
Torrey Blackmar, the senior center director, has worked at the senior center since it was built. Blackmar considers Hudson the founder of the senior center.
“I always looked at her as the person who got things done,” Blackmar said. “Even though she backed away from the operations, she was a part of the spirit of the senior center.”
Today, pictures of Hudson hang on the walls off the senior center – along with other contributions she made – in tribute to her.
Hudson joined the Garner Chamber of Commerce after she retired in 1985. Garner Chamber President Neal Padgett called her a friend.
“Mrs. Hudson was a pillar of local business and the community,” Padgett said in an email. “That lady could get things done!
“The most fun I had with Ms. Anna was when we cast her in a show featuring the music of 1942 and World War II. Her vivid memories of the war days brought such perspective to the show, and she sure enjoyed her once-in-a-lifetime moment under the stage lights.”
Mayor Ronnie Williams described her as a special person.
“She was an advocate for the seniors and she will be sorely missed,” Williams said.
Williams said he remembers some of the debates he used to have with her, while on town council.
“She believed in what she was doing. And if you didn’t agree with her, by the time you talked to her you agreed with her. She was very persuasive.”
And often times he didn’t agree with her.
“But I had the utmost respect for her,” Williams said. “She had a Garner heart and respect for the senior citizens.”
Leigh Hudson said the most important thing his mother taught him was to have integrity. “Do what you say you’ll do.”
She made sure that they had raised all the money before breaking ground on the senior center in 1989, he said.
“She didn’t want any debt,” Leigh Hudson said. “She was very personable, engaging, strong-willed, determined. “Whatever she started, she finished. Most people would say she’s very pleasant.”
Just look at Leigh’s Facebook page. He posted a picture of his mother eight days ago and as of Friday it had 311 likes and nearly 100 comments from people who knew her.
“That is a wonderful picture of a very fulfilled woman,” Kelli-Ann McClentic commented.
“Miss Anna was certainly one of the matriarchs of Garner and one of my favorite people,” Johnny Bagwell commented. “It always made my day to see her in the office or stop by the store to buy her seeds. Miss Anna was a special person and will be greatly missed in our community.”
Hudson died peacefully at her home in Garner. Leigh said doctors said she was supposed to die three weeks earlier.
“We told her goodbye three times, but she just kept keeping on,” Leigh Hudson said.
That’s who she was.