God was talking: Cooleemee woman makes gravy and more to help others

Published 1:52 pm Tuesday, March 28, 2023

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By Mike Barnhardt

Enterprise Record

COOLEEMEE – Judy Webb didn’t know exactly why, but she kept getting the idea that she needed to do something to help someone else.

Her town was filled with retired folks like herself – and coupled with her love of Christmas – Judy and friends decided to host a senior citizens Christmas party.

It was an immediate hit, and other than two off years because of the pandemic, has been ongoing for some 20 years.

In between, she’s hosted dozens of breakfasts and other meals, raising money for the fire department, VFW, her church (Cooleemee Baptist), and several individuals going through tough times.

“I like to see people have a good time,” she said. “And I love to cook and people love to eat what I cook.”

Pastor Allen Mullins brought it all in perspective for Judy.

“After I retired, I started to thinking about ways to help people. I just wanted to help people. Mr. Mullins told me, ‘Judy, don’t you know that’s God talking to you’?”

He kept talking. And she kept listening. Still is. Her most recent breakfast, held in February, raised thousands of dollars for a local woman suffering from cancer.

“I’ve had a lot of friends to help me. I couldn’t do any of this without the help of my friends.

“One day, I’m going to have to quit, but as long as I’m able, I’m going to be on the go,” Judy said. “It makes me feel good to see happiness in people. I like to see people have a good time, and they do.”

Pushing 81, she has no plans to retire from helping others.  “I don’t act my age and I don’t feel it. God has blessed me.”

Judy admits that life isn’t always easy. She’s never had a lot of money, and her husband Bobby died at age 56. Since her retirement in year 2000 or so, she’s stayed busy by sitting with sick people, driving people to appointments – ways to earn a few dollars while still helping someone else. But it can get lonely at night, as she now limits her driving hours at times.

Judy grew up in Cooleemee, with two brothers and two sisters. She graduated from high school in Davie County and got married at age 19. They lived in Rowan  County for a while before moving back to Cooleemee.

Judy remembers buying the house she still lives in for $1. The catch: they had to move it, which cost more than the house. The lot where it still stands on Watts Street cost $350. “A dollar was a lot of money to us back then,” she said.

The family never went on a trip for vacation. They worked on their house.

Judy continued to work after her husband died. She was working at Burlington Industries when it closed in Cooleemee, then at Cone Mills in Salisbury.

“I’ve always been a worker. As long as I can go, I’ll take care of my place,” she said. “After I retired, I saw I couldn’t be happy doing nothing. I stayed here, then went out and started cleaning houses … sitting with people … taking them wherever they needed to go.”

Judy credits Joe and Jeannie Warwick for taking her under their wing after her husband died. She was helping take care of Jeannie’s mother, but it was that Cooleemee couple who helped her stay on her feet after her husband died.

Expect more breakfasts at the Cooleemee VFW building. And expect Judy Webb to be there making her locally famous sausage and gravy. Expect it all to be for a good cause.

Expect to see more Cooleemee Senior Citizen Christmas parties. Judy remembers well that first senior citizens Christmas party, and can spout off just about everyone’s name by looking at photographs from the event. It quickly outgrew the first home at the Presbyterian church, and now fills the VFW building. Expect to see Judy’s face light up when Santa Claus makes his appearance. He’s her favorite person, you know.

Expect to be hugged, too. Judy is a hugger.

“A woman told me years ago, that when you get a certain age, you can hug any man you want. I try to take advantage of that.”