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Memorial Service for Woodring Matriarch

By Staff | Jan 19, 2012

A high school graduation photo of Martha Ann Cole who would later go on to be recognized by many as Ann Woodring.

Last week, members of Sanibel Island’s pioneering Woodring family held a private memorial service to honor Ann Woodring-Myers who died recently after a prolonged battle with cancer. The former wife of Ralph Woodring, Ann was mother to Ralph Woodring, Jr. and his brothers of Wayne, Shane and Sam, and sister, Julie Christian. She was also a grandmother to 11 grandchildren and great grandmother to six great-grandchildren.

Ann, formerly known as Martha Ann Cole, was among one of the earliest families to settle full time on Sanibel Island. Her mother and father, Jack and Gertrude Cole, had relocated here in the 1930s from Washington State. They pitched a tent on the grounds where the new italian restaurant Il Cielo now resides, and from there, went on to establish “Jack’s Place” – a small enterprise that sold sandwiches and drinks. That eventually expanded into a small dining venue where Martha Ann and a sister, Mary, worked and even oversaw operations during times when her parents ventured off island to compete in tournaments as they were skilled sharp-shooters.

In 1955, Martha Ann married Ralph Woodring just after he had enlisted in the U.S. Air Force. As Ralph had a brother who dated a Martha Jane, Daughter Julie says it was determined that there was room for only one “Martha” so Martha Ann, simply became known as Ann.

Julie says her mother had a special fondness for the beaches of Sanibel. She recalls how her mom would spend hour upon hour shelling, but not in the way many do it today. “Some people walk up and down the beach, but she would sit in one spot for hours at a time, just turning over shells and digging in one spot.”

Julie also says Ann especially enjoyed being outside and encouraged her children to spend as much time as they could outdoors. “My mother always thought of Sanibel as a very special place, and she loved being here,” says Julie. Ann was also said to be passionate about nature, wildlife, and especially her children’s active participation in school. She was a frequent volunteer with the PTA at Sanibel School. Beyond the school teachings, Ann taught the children aspects of self-sufficiency too. Julie says she taught all the children how to cook. Ann and Ralph Woodring eventually divorced, and in later life, she worked as a clerk for the Florida Department Store of Maas Brothers. She later remarried to Alvin Myers of Fort Myers. In recent years, as Ann became afflicted by cancer, she was cared for by Daughter Julie in North Carolina.

Jack and Gertrude Cole, Martha Ann's parents, in front of Jack's Place formerly located on Periwinkle Way.

Last week, the Woodring children returned to Sanibel for a private memorial service held on the grounds of the Woodring home. A little more than 30 people attended to pay tribute to a mother, grandmother and great grandmother who was loved and respected as one the earliest members of the Sanibel community.

A young Martha Ann with her Sister, Mary, on Sanibel.