Nancy Luetta Cavenaugh was born September 26, 1921, in Richlands, Onslow County, North
Carolina to James and Lucinda Cavenaugh. She was the youngest of eleven children, one of whom died in
infancy. There were six surviving brothers and three sisters, all of whom Nancy survived. Even as a small
child, she was beautiful and smart, and her siblings took a lead role in her upbringing. This was
undoubtedly helpful to her mother, who was busy raising the rest of her rambunctious brood, only one of
which was married when Nancy was born. Richlands was and is still a small town in the heart of the North
Carolina tobacco country. Her father, Jim, and her brothers raised tobacco. At one point, her father served
as Onslow County Sherif. As the Great Depression took hold of the country, four of her brothers entered
military service and her older sisters married.
Nancy was very active in all aspects of her school life, and was recognized as an excellent student
and the highest the scoring player on the Richlands High School girls basketball team. She graduated in
1937 at the age of sixteen with the intention of attending North Carolina State University. However,
finances were a problem, so she went to Norfolk, Virginia, to live with her sister Irma and her husband
Jimmy Bland. Her hope was to work and save money to finance her further education. But life got in the
While in Norfolk, she met Thomas Edward Woods (“Tommy”), a sailor and native of the coal
mining region of West Virginia, who was being trained as a structures and hydraulic mechanic in Naval
aviation. Her four brothers who were also in the Navy, thought Nancy was too young to be spending time
with a sailor. Nonetheless, romance bloomed, and when Tommy was sent to Panama, C. Z. following his
training, they agreed to write to each other. Tommy returned to Norfolk a year later, and they were wed in
1938. While stationed in Norfolk, Tommy became a “Plankowner” (original crew) of the carrier U. S. S.
Benjamin Franklin, CV-13 (the Franklin), which was launched in 1943.
It was in Norfolk that Tommy and Nancy began their family with the birth of Thomas Michael in
1941. However, further additions to the family would be delayed when the Franklin was sent to sea for
trials, and then immediately deployed to the South Pacific where she participated in many campaigns with
Task Force 58, commanded by Adm. “Bull” Halsey. The ship sustained severe damage in late 1944 and
returned to Pudget Sound Naval Yard for repairs. Nancy and Mike were living in San Diego California
with Nancy’s older brother Tom and his wife Sara at the time, and when the ship docked at Pudget Sound,
they were there to meet Tommy. In early 1945, Tommy and the ship returned to the western Pacific, but in
Hawaii, Tommy was taken off the ship and attached to a flight squadron in San Diego. It was there that
Stephanie Lynn was born in 1946. Brent Leigh was born in Millington, Tennessee, in 1950.
After the war, Tommy decided to make a career in the Navy, and until his retirement in 1957,
spent approximately five years at sea or was deployed to foreign countries. During nearly half of their
marriage until Tommy retired, Nancy raised her three children on her own while carefully managing the
finances with the meager allotment she received from the Navy. She did it all, and did it well. Through all
of the difficulties of being a Naval wife, she never complained, and her children never doubted her love
and devotion to them, though at times, she necessarily applied the principles of “tough-love.”
After Tommy’s retirement, the family came to Orlando when Tommy accepted a position with the
Glenn L. Martin Company, where he was designated a quality control manager. Tommy died in 2008 and
since then, Nancy has lived with the same spunk and determination that she had always exhibited, living
independently in her own home until shortly before her death.
During all of her ninety-eight years, Nancy Woods was a remarkable woman in many ways. She
was ever attractive, very intelligent, an avid reader, expert bridge player, and enjoyed a wide circle of
friends. She was actively involved in the Orlando Garden Club, a long-time member of Sorosis, and a
member of Park Lake Presbyterian church. But her most important aspect was the joyful, strong, and
persistent determination with which she lived her life. She was surely an inspiration to all who knew and
A funeral service for Mrs. Nancy L. Woods, age 98, of Orlando, FL., who passed away Thursday, November 7, 2019, will be held Saturday, November 16, 2019 11AM at Park Lake Presbyterian Church, 309 E. Colonial Drive, Orlando, FL 32803 with Dr. Dan DeBevoise officiating. Visitation for family for family and friends will be one hour prior to service time at the church. Interment to follow at Greenwood Cemetery, 1603 Greenwood Street, Orlando, FL 32801. Arrangements entrusted to CAREY HAND COLONIAL FUNERAL HOME, 2811 Curry Ford Road, Orlando, FL 32806 407-898-2561 www.careyhandcolonialfh.com
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