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Front Page » October 13, 2011 » Senior focus » A hundred years in the making
Published 1,015 days ago

A hundred years in the making


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By JOHN SERFUSTINI
Sun Advocate associate editor

Rose Woodbury Morley will mark a full century of living on Oct. 18, loved and revered by a posterity of 251 people. That number includes the six children she and her late husband Gerald produced, 38 grandchildren, 131 great-grandchildren and 15 great-great-grandchildren.

"She's revered mainly because she's so tough," quips her son, Richard. He recalls that well into her 90s she began each day with a series of calisthenics, which included 100 situps at the end. "She told me she had to cut back to 50 situps later," he added.

The exercise is just a small part of a lifetime of activity that began for her on her family's farm near St. George in 1911. Richard Morley has written a book about her life, and the details in this story come from that biography.

Her parents, John T. Woodbury, Jr. and Nimzar Gagosian, were married in 1909 in Zara, Turkey. The marriage may have saved Nimzar's life, because at the time the Ottoman Turks were persecuting Christian Armenians who would not renounce their faith. Such a raid occurred in Zara just ten months after the wedding.

Rose was one of 13 children in the Woodbury family. During her early years she was raised mainly in in two homes in Utah's Dixie, one in St. George and the other on a farm at Washington Flats. Her father was a teacher and a "country judge" in St. George, so his duties and the family's residence required moves back and forth. He earned his degree from what was then Brigham Young Academy in Provo. The family spent a year in Provo with him while he finished college, then returned to St. George.

Rose recalls that the trip back from Provo was an adventure. Her father had bought a Model T that was not in very good condition, loaded the family's belongings in the seats, with the children sitting on top of blankets that had been spread out over the luggage. The car had to be towed up hill several times because it did not have the power to make the grades.

She also remembers the many mulberry trees at those homes in St. George. Brigham Young had told early settlers of St. George to grow the trees so their leaves would feed silkworms imported from China. Rose remembers the pies made from the berries as well as the scarves that had been woven from silk.

Nimzar made extra money for the family by weaving rugs in Armenian patterns on her own loom.

The hard work she did on the farm, milking cows, slopping hogs, and other assorted chores, left her with a work ethic that lasted a lifetime. Even late in life, she did not shirk the chores that had to be done.

The farm was not all work, though. There were times she enjoyed swimming in the canal. Her father would block the canal with planks during the family's water turn, and the flood made a nice swimming pool. The tasks of picking ripe fruit did not seem like work at all, she recalls.

Thanksgiving dinners were a feast, with all the food - including the turkey - coming from the farm.

Her first visit to Price was in the summer of 1917. She, her sister Viola and brother Evan earned their own money working in a sugar beet field. They set aside a nickel a week to see a movie at the Utah Theater (which later became the Crown). The rest they saved. At the end of the summer, they had amassed a fortune: $15 for Rose and $12 for Viola.

The money didn't last long, but it went for a good cause: the family car needed repairs and the children sacrificed the money willingly to help out.

Rose has said that the one thing she truly hated about summer in St. George was the barrage of lightning storms. Lightning had killed a few of the family's horses and cows, and once even entered the house by striking a telephone line. However, when the storms passed, there was good, red mud left over for her and her sisters to make dolls, furniture and bricks for their playhouse.

At age 15, she moved into town, working in a hotel and eventually becoming financially independent at age 16. That was the year she moved to Price.

She told her son, Richard, that she fell in love with the town during her childhood summer in the beet field and had felt that her move was foreordained.

She did not go beyond her sophomore year of high school. She is quoted in the book as saying, "My education came from living life the best way I knew how...I remember many things taught me by Mama and Pap, practical things that are true."

In Price, she made a living cleaning houses for the Causer and McKinnon families. She started at 25 cents an hour, then got a raise to 50 cents when it became apparent that she was doing twice the work of any of the other girls who had worked for them.

Later she became an assistant manager for the boys and girls dormitories for Carbon High School. Back in those days, students moved into Price from the surrounding coal camps for the school year. She quickly earned a reputation as a willing and able worker.

She also recalls attending church in the LDS Tabernacle that used to be on 100 East and Main Street in Price.

She enjoyed socializing in Carbon County, especially dancing. It was at one of those dances that she met Gerald Morley. Gerald gave her a ride back to her dorm when the dance was over, but the relationship did not begin with that. She told him she was dating another boy, a red head, whose name has long been forgotten by now.

In time though, they began dating and had a two-year courtship. They married in 1932.

"It was not possible for me not to love him because everybody else did," she reminisced. "He was a good kid. He was just what I needed to feel fulfilled at that time in my life."

They lived for a time in the basement of his parents' house on Fifth Avenue. in Price. Richard was born in that apartment 22 months later.

Later they bought an acre and a half of land of their own at the corner of 500 East and College Avenue, where they kept a small farm. Gerald built the home there with his own hands. The home had to be rebuilt in 1942 after a tornado swept through and devastated the roof and chimneys and most of the farm fixtures. She has lived in that home ever since.

Gerald died suddenly and unexpectedly of a heart attack in 1959. He was only 51. She relied on her LDS faith to cope with the tragedy. She also worked odd jobs to earn money

She also kept busy, spending tens of thousands of hours making afghans and quilts for her children and grandchildren, a hobby she kept well into her 90s.

Since moving to Price, she has been active in church work, doing temple duties and in the Relief Society.

Her family will celebrate her birthday on Saturday in Price.

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