At 106, Muncy native still comes home to visit
MUNCY – Family history and a scholarship dinner at Bucknell University brought Fannie Rachael Wood Brown back to Muncy for a weekend visit. On Friday, March 29, Fannie who goes by ‘Suze’ made her way back to her hometown to deliver a family bible to the James Wood family. At 106 years old, she remains in good health that allows her to make this trip each year. Her wit and good spirits have not abandoned her, and she graciously held the eight pound bible on her lap as she shared some history with this author, her nephew Jim, and her daughter Margie Ewing.
The bible, adorned and bound with leather, front and back, and trimmed in gold, is a family heirloom dating back to 1874 to the Dr.George Wood family, brother of William, Suze’s grandfather. It was presented to Fannie Wood by the Georgine Wood Heberton family and her husband Dr. Herberton. The bible was handed down from George Wood who lived in Muncy until the early 1900’s.
Traditionally in the mid 1800s bibles held many family records, maps and commentaries. Considering the limited technology, these bibles are true pieces of art. Jim Wood, who now resides in the family homestead with his family, is the sixth generation of eight from the Wood family to live in the house. William Wood and his wife Grezel came to Muncy in 1813 from Carlisle. He died shortly after his arrival and his son, Thomas, built the Wood estate in 1865 which is located at the upper end of South Main Street.
“We found several family papers in the attic,” said Jim Wood. One of the things discovered was an old letter written by Grezel Wood to her brother but never sent. “We had it framed,” he said.
With the bible, among other documents, came family letters, and a past issue of Now and Then from 1959.
Fannie Rachael Wood is a fourth generation descendant of the original William Wood. She was born January 9, 1913 and grew up in Muncy. The second oldest of five siblings, she left in the 40s and moved to Philadelphia after graduating from Bucknell University. She said three of her brothers all lived to be in their 90’s, but her youngest brother James was killed in WWII. One of her brothers was the widely known Judge Thomas Wood, Jim’s father.
“I was a Muncy High School graduate,” said Fannie Wood Brown. After she graduated in 1929, she attended Bucknell University and followed a career in education. She proudly announced, “I taught during the second year at the new high school building. I enjoyed teaching,” she added. “I remember the building.”
On December 21st in 1940, she married Rodney Brown of Ohio. She met him here in Muncy through her brother, Harry Peterman Wood who introduced them. Brown worked for DuPont in a managerial position which took the couple to New Jersey, and then Philadelphia where they raised three children, and from there on to Michigan. She currently resides in Newtown Square, PA and still lives independently.
The former teacher and Muncy native fondly recalled some childhood memories and how much she enjoyed growing up in Muncy. The home had lots of land with a tennis court and a swimming pool, she said, and all the children would come to her house to play.
She recollected bobsled trips in the winter time from Muncy to Hughesville while in school. “The teachers were chaperones then. It was 25 cents each for a ride on the bobsleds that were filled with straw, and the kids and teachers sat with blankets on their laps. Another fond memory brought to Fannie Wood Brown was a frequent visit to the “Sweet Shop” in Hughesville where they would enjoy eating ice cream. “It was a nice field trip.”
She fondly remembers many of her friends and mentioned the Steck family and three other friends she taught school with, as they all got jobs at the same time at Muncy School. Janet Worthington Englehart, Dorothy Dunlap and Elizabeth Hafer were all former Muncy students. “I also remember Martha Schyler and Jesse Shoemaker. They were Miss Martha and Miss Jesse. We were all good friends.” Mary DeWald taught with her as well and Fannie said she kept in touch with her for a long time.
According to Jim Wood, Fannie Rachael Wood Brown was officially recognized on Saturday, March 30 as the oldest alumni on record at Bucknell University. She also arrives once or twice a year to visit Jim’s sister who lives in Eagles Mere.
“The bible will be added to a collection of family bibles already part of the Wood family until everyone in the family gets to see it,” said Jim who is hoping to have a family reunion this summer. Eventually the bible “Aunt Suze” brought with her will be part of the Muncy Historical Society.
“She has a very good memory about everything,” said James. “She has a mind like a steel trap. She knows everything about the family.”
She had knee surgery two years ago, and according to her family, she gets around better now than she did ten years ago.
When asked what has kept her living so well, so long, she replied, “Applesauce. We had an apple orchard around back, and we had applesauce at every meal.”