“To live in the hearts we leave behind is not to die.” ~Thomas Campbell
Myra "Teta" Fields Woodberry was born in Dallas, Texas, on July 18, 1951, the fifth daughter of George “Gus” and Allene “TaTa” Phillips Fields. Though she was the ‘baby sister’ who followed them around, that position in the line did not stop her from finding her place in the world. While she did not sing with them in their Field Sisters quartet, she held her own as a strong alto, even choir section leader and president, praising God across America.
A precocious young lady, Myra proudly matriculated from her first day of school until her high school graduation in 1969 at Hamilton Park School, never leaving her beloved community until she left for college. After years of courtship, she married her friend, Billy D. Woodberry, in January 1970. Together, they welcomed to their world one daughter, Stacia. Though divorced, the two remained friends.
Smart and determined, young Ms. Woodberry entered the hallowed halls of East Texas State College where she earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in Elementary Education, and later a Master of Education in Early Childhood Education. She excelled in her academic endeavors and encouraged her family to do the same. Her daughter and grandchildren made her proud as each earned distinguished honors and placement in the Dallas areas most prestigious academic arenas.
For forty years (1975-2015), Myra dedicated her professional life to the Richardson Independent School District molding the minds of first, second and third grade students, first at the new RISD magnet and her alma mater, the Hamilton Park Pacesetter Magnet, then at Dobie Elementary, ultimately returning to the Pacesetter in 1984 for 31 wonderful years, both for her and her students. She instilled in them her belief that “If I believe, I can.” Hundreds paid tribute to her prowess and excellence in the classroom and her leadership roles within the school. Many still testify of the impact she had on them as administrators, teachers, staff, parents, and students.
So, in recognition of her hard work, Myra was named the HPPM 1998 Teacher of the Year and granted a Texas PTA Honorary Lifetime membership in 2000. Thousands of people, as well as their children and grandchildren who graced her classrooms, can claim her as their Ms. Woodberry, especially those who remember her holiday celebrations such as the Valentines Day parties when she taught them her own school days song, “Will You Be My Valentine.” Through her, they were exposed to the worlds of volunteerism, philanthropy and community involvement as she included her family and friends for classroom events such as Thanksgiving feasts and Career Day activities. She demonstrated how being a friend to others enjoins your friends to be there for you.
And her friends were faithful. Because she was so loved, there wasn’t a request (and she made so few) that they would not find a way to fulfill. Why? Because there was nothing she would deny them, as long as it was not illegal or unethical. They cooked for her. She cooked for them. Friends gathered in her home to prepare communal meals which they enjoyed in her Myra’s cheerful presence. They traveled with her and shared the sights and good times she cherished. They were her brothers and sisters. They were her friends because she possessed the love of Christ.
Myra’s Christian life may have officially begun when she accepted Christ and joined Mt. Pisgah Baptist Church on October 4, 1959, but, she was already a third generation child of “The Rock”, a direct descendant of founding members. She worked tirelessly at her church until her health restricted her level of involvement. She believed, when He calls on you, God wants a YES! And, she said “Yes” many times.
At The Rock, Myra volunteered to serve as a Sunday school teacher, pianist for the Starlight (children’s) Band, member/president/section leader of the Evangelical/Adult/Women of Praise choirs, member of the Helping Hands and the Greeters ministries, the Praise and Worship Team, and the Chimes of Praise, and on the church and pastor anniversary committees, usually the chairman. She took on the Church Clerk role for decades - the second only clerk in the history of the church after filling in for her father who held it for many years. It was Myra who recorded the church’s historic proceedings. She greeted new members, introducing them to Mt. Pisgah as she collected their information during intake and when she conducted New Member Orientations. And, if there were other areas where she was needed, she was there. Her invaluable contributions will be part of the church annals through eternity. And, everything she did, she did with love.
Myra loved her family, her students, her friends, good food, Coach bags, and Volvos. But her greatest love was for the Lord. She was never one to avoid sharing the Good News of Jesus Christ in her Sunday school class, during a choir or church meeting, or while evangelizing to the homeless on the streets of Washington, D.C. while on a choir trip. She wanted others to know the power she had found in accepting Christ as her personal savior.
Myra Woodberry lived her life in such a way that others could see Christ in her. She used her time for the betterment of a situation. She set examples for others to follow. She selected her words with purpose. She spoke quietly but with wisdom and insight. She found the good in those she met and shied away from their bad, realizing that she could still love the person, if not the action. She left an indelible memory and a lingering presence that remains pleasant to embrace, brings a smile to your face, and warms your heart. That’s how she would want to be remembered.
Preceded in death by her parents, Myra leaves the following family to cherish and carry on her legacy: her daughter, Stacia; grandchildren, Jillian and Jaden Carraway; sisters: Evelyn Jean Jones, Birdie Williams, Barbara (James) Owens, and Gwinette Bishop; aunts: Bernice Fields Dawson, Zelma Phillips Casey, and Veverly Phillips; uncles: Sam (Mae) Fields, Louie Phillips, and David (Lois) Phillips; godchildren, Geronne Newsome and Erin Denise Lee; honorary godchildren: Nicole and Kimberly Jefferson, Brittni Hilburn, Keith Mitchell, Warren G. Lee III, and Melody Mitchell Frazier; many nieces and nephews; dozens of cousins; the brother she never had, Warren G. Lee II.; and special life-long friends, Mable Hilburn and Linda Joyce Lee Mitchell. But, there were several others who played crucial roles in her life, friends who were always by her side over the decades. She will forever be a sparkling ember in the hearts of the thousands she counted among her other families, in her classrooms, schools, church, and neighborhood.
Just as she told a friend during her last week “It’s time to go home,” she moved on February 5, 2019, into her new heavenly mansion where she can sing to and praise our Lord to no end.