This article was originally published in the June/July 2016 issue of 78 Magazine.
Words by Terrell Manasco | Image by Blakeney Clouse
With broad Rocky Mountain shoulders and arms that could snap an oak tree, David Woodley could pose as a retired linebacker. Despite his immense physical dimensions, the death of David’s elder brother Rodney in 2005 was a crippling blow that, to this day, brings David to his knees.This morning, beneath a black baseball cap, David leans back in his office chair and recalls growing up with Rodney in the small community of Saragossa.
“Back then all we had to do was work and play outside, sometimes on dirt basketball courts,” David says. “He and I would get out and do our chores in the morning and leave on our bicycles and stay gone until dark. We’d meet up with other kids in the community at my uncle’s little store, Duncan’s Grocery Store, and decide whose house we were going to that day to play ball. I have some great memories doing that. You don’t see kids doing that anymore.”
By his reckoning, the Woodleys were the “two biggest kids in the community,” and never considered work to be a four-letter word. “At a very young age, my brother and I worked dairy farms together, we hauled hay, working for people in the community. That’s where we learned to drive, was on a tractor,” David says.
Their vigorous work schedule often had an amusing side effect. “Even though we didn’t have a whole lot, we always had spending money, and my buddies would ask us, ‘Why do y’all always have money in your pocket?’ I said, ‘Well, follow us around one summer and we’ll show you,’ ” David says.
After graduating from Walker High School, Rodney worked full time installing flooring. David graduated at Carbon Hill High School five years later and attended Walker College. “After that I was working power plants all over the Southeast, doing inspections on smoke stacks and cooling towers,” David says. “During layoffs I worked with Rodney laying carpet.”
David’s job required him to be out of state for extended periods, and he soon grew tired of being away from home. In 1994, the elder brother made one suggestion that changed everything. “Rodney says, ‘Why don’t you just come home, and me and you partner up as installers?’” David recalls.
David accepted. Within a year, David received another offer, this time from Juanita Black, one of the original owners of Kountry Karpets. Her husband Lesley had passed away and she needed help running the business. After David had managed the store for about a year, Juanita approached the Woodleys about purchasing the business.
“We worked hard but didn’t have much to invest in a business,” David admits. “We talked to some people who believed in us, and bought the store back in ’97. I think about how God had His hand in this whole process. If one little thing had changed, we would have never have gotten into this business. Doors just kept opening for us that only He could have opened. God just showed us favor and really blessed us.”
It appeared to be all smooth sailing for the good ship Woodley, but in 2005, they suddenly ran into choppy waters.”Rodney had gone on a fishing trip to Guntersville for a week with Bro. Jack Layman,” David says. “Rodney came back and was hurting in his stomach. He went to the doctor and found out he had gall bladder cancer.”
For a moment, a tiny smile appears on his face. “He caught the biggest fish he’d ever caught in his life on that trip, but he never saw it mounted,” David says.
Because of the advanced stage of the cancer, treatment was not an option. David admits he was often frustrated because he thought Rodney had given up. “He was so calm and peaceful,” David remembers. “I’d get aggravated and say ‘You can’t give up, you’ve got to fight this!’ He’d say, ‘I’m not giving up. I’m just okay with what God’s plan is.’ God was giving him a peace that I couldn’t understand. But then I don’t understand why God loves me, even though He does.”
On June 15, 2005, two months after he returned from his last fishing trip, Rodney Woodley passed away at UAB Hospital in Birmingham.David was devastated. “After Rodney passed, I had a lot of questions, and I was kind of hurt at God,” David says. “The lifestyle I lived, I was a roughneck, and Rodney had never been in any trouble. I felt like Rodney had gotten dealt my hand.”
Not long before he passed away, Rodney Woodley stood before the congregation of Saragossa First Baptist Church, where he served as deacon, and read a poem:
The Richest Man I Know
The richest man I know doesn’t have a cabin in the mountains. He doesn’t have a house on the beach.
The richest man I know doesn’t have a yacht. He doesn’t have a limo with a driver. He doesn’t even have a big garage full of cars.
The richest man I know doesn’t fly around in a private jet. He doesn’t even have diamonds or gold.
The richest man I know does not know any royalty or dignitaries.
The richest man I do know has a nice home. He has a good job.
The richest man I know has all the necessities of life. He has plenty of clothes and food.
The richest man I know has a wife that’s the love of his life. He has a son and daughter that he cherishes.
The richest man I know has many family sand friends that love and care about him.
But most of all the richest man I know has a Lord sand Savior that loved him enough to die for his sins.
I know all these things are true because you see, the richest man I know is Rodney Woodley.
I thank all of you for your prayers in this difficult time in my life. The love and caring that has been shown is amazing. I love all of you very much.
“When Rodney stood up there and read that poem, he said, ‘If my sickness changes one life, it’s worth it all,’ ” David recalls.
David now feels God has blessed him in many ways, but he still bears the emotional scars left from Rodney’s death. “Not only did I lose my brother and business partner, I lost my best friend,” David says. “If I could just be half the man Rodney was, and my dad Duain Woodley, I’d be doing okay. He’s gone but I’ll see him again. And I’ll never forget him.”
One has to wonder whether Rodney was the richest man in the world, or that David is, for knowing him. 78
Rodney is survived by his wife Trisha, son Nick, and daughter Sara. Outside of David’s office in Sumiton, a plaque is dedicated to Rodney’s memory that reads “This building and business dedicated to the memory of Rodney Wayne Woodley, 1962-2005, ‘Never Forget.’” Kountry Karpets has been offering flooring products and services for forty years. Their flooring products are from top manufacturers, and include carpet, wood, ceramic tile, laminate, vinyl sheet, and luxury vinyl tile.