Remembering Jim Woodle
It is always sad when one loses a family member or dear friend. Such were the feelings of the Middleton Place family with the recent passing of Jim Woodle.
For forty-two years Jim “Mr. Jim” Woodle was a mainstay at Middleton Place. Hired by Charles Duell in 1971, he worked at the Woodlands on the west side of Ashley River Road, as Chief of Security for Middleton Place, and Building Maintenance Manager until his “official” retirement in 2014. Jim was also a Deputy Wildlife Conservation Officer and continued to work on special projects at Middleton Place until February, 2017. Charles Duell once said of his equipment operating and engineering skills, “Jim can just about make water flow uphill.”
According to former Vice President of Accounting Ileen Grange, Jim loved his duties and life in the house on the lake (“Jim’s Lake”) at Middleton Place, where he and his wife Joyce raised their three children. He was a classic workaholic – honest, dependable, and capable who took few vacation days because he considered weekends fishing or hunting at Middleton Place to be sufficient time off.
Working with Jim was never boring. Security Director Matt Jackson recalls a time the swans escaped from the Reflection Pool. The two men easily caught the male, but the female led them on a merry chase down the camellia alee to the rice field, across the parterre to the crane pool. Grinning after they made the capture, neither was aware that a man taking pictures of them with their captured quarry was a professional photographer. To their surprise, later that week the picture graced the cover of “West of ….” the community newspaper for West Ashley.
Vice President of Horticulture Sidney Fraser remembers when they needed to capture a six-foot alligator in the Reflection Pool early in the morning. Jim had a plan: he would jump on the gator, followed by Garden workers Bill Green, Julius Alston, and Sidney. Jim said, “Remember, when I jump on, the rest of you must jump on too!” Jim jumped, as did the other two, but Sidney hesitated. Jim yelled at him, “Get on up here!” He did and they captured the gator, loaded him in the back of Jim’s truck, and took him to Charles Towne landing to be released.
The fondest memory for Dottie Stone took place in the Stableyard. One day the two big water buffalo Adem and Burk escaped their pen. They were chasing the stable hands all over the pasture, causing the men to jump over the fence to escape. Of course, someone called Mr. Jim. Up he swaggered from the outback and surveyed the situation. He gave a loud whistle through his teeth and shouted, “Get up now!” Adem and Burke calmly pranced back to their pen and Mr. Jim went back to work.
Director of Interpretation Jeff Neale has a much more serious remembrance of Jim. One day a giant tree branch fell on Jeff’s car in the parking lot. At the time, he carried his Marine Corps cover (cap) in the rear window of the car. When he went to check the damage, Jeff found Marine Drill Instructor Jim Woodle brushing off the cap. “I thought you would want to save this,” said one Marine to the other.
Friend and co-worker Ileen Grange offers this heart-warming tribute. “His file contained notes and letters of thanks from Heyward Carter for assistance with putting out a fire on the adjacent Millbrook property to a visitor whose flat tire he changed one late afternoon. That was Mr. Jim.