Melle Wood (née Maybelle Gilliam) was born in Berry Alabama on October 29, 1930 to Rufus and Lula Mae Gilliam. She was the youngest of seven children and her mother always called her a “gift” baby. Her father owned a large farm where the family lived. Melle remembered walking the fields with her dad, stretching to walk in his footsteps in the soft dirt. Her father died when she was five and left her mother to manage the farm for a number of years. Eventually the farm was sold and the two of them moved to Tuscaloosa, Alabama.
When she graduated from High School, she moved to Birmingham to study x-ray technology. Her roommates decided that Maybelle was a big name, so nicknamed her Melle, a name she has used ever since.
After she graduated from her program, she and a friend moved to Oakland, California as an adventure. There, they worked and lived in a hospital for a year. Melle remembers going to Golden Gate Park for outdoor concerts, riding dune buggies on the beach and flirting with the doctors.
When the year was done, Melle moved back to Birmingham to work at the University Hospital. There she met her future husband J. Garland Wood. She remembered him as a wonderful teacher, an excellent physician and a difficult boss. Many of her fellow technicians were afraid of him, but she fell in love instead.
When Garland proposed to Melle, he told her he wanted to move away from Alabama to a small city in Arizona called Flagstaff. She agreed and in 1959 they moved to Arizona and were married. Melle jumped right into managing the home front and in 1960, Garland’s daughter Cheryl, aged 14, moved in and their daughter Rebecca was born. In 1963, they had their son James Garland Wood IV.
When Melle wasn’t managing the kids and home, she was volunteering at the local schools or at the hospital. She was an active PTA and Medical Auxiliary member. In the late 1960’s, Garland began flying to outlying hospitals on the Arizona reservations and Melle would often accompany him. The favorite family vacation was a month-long visit to Destin Beach, Florida, where Garland had spent vacations as children.
In 1973, Melle and Garland bought property in Sedona, Arizona and a year later built a cabin on Oak Creek. This second home became a refuge of peace for both of them. They planted numerous fruit trees and had a vegetable garden that supplied all their needs for many years. Melle was excellent at canning and freezing fresh fruits and vegetables that would last all year long.
When Garland retired, he and Melle moved to Sedona and sold their Flagstaff home. They lived there for many years, enjoying the peace and quiet and the hobbies of farming and astronomy. In 1996, Garland passed away, and Melle continued to live and manage the Sedona farm for many years, reminiscent of her own mother’s life. In 2003, when the farm became too much to manage, Melle moved to Boise Idaho to be close to family. In 2014, Melle moved into Touchmark and lived there until her passing on May 9, 2019. We are so grateful for the wonderful care, love and compassion she received there.
Melle is survived by her children Cheryl (Jim), Rebecca (Bruce) and Jim (Amy), her grandchildren Jay (Stephanie) and Paul (Sarah), Rachel (Catalina), Ian, Andrew and Kristin, Caroline and James, and her great-grandchildren Garrett and Jacob, Arno, Berni and Luta, who was born on May 9th, 2019 and will have Mae as one of her middle names!
Melle Wood was and always will be a beautiful example of a life well-lived. Her smile, compassion and cheerful nature will be among the many legacies that she leaves behind. We will love her always and keep her in our hearts.
Sincerely, Rebecca, Jim, and Cheryl