I’ve written a lot lately about small towns and the people who are the backbone of those towns, the volunteers who do most of the actual work that makes a town better, prettier, cleaner, and more comfortable for the others who live there…those people who give up so many hours of their own lives to do something for someone else. Today, we feature a woman who does just that in Dublin, Texas, a woman who has certainly earned her title: The Christmas Lady.
***********Written by Patty Hirst
Without the tenacity, fortitude, and determination of Billie Goodwin, legions of Dublin youth and nursing home residents would be left out at Christmas. Her goal is to make certain that these in depleted circumstances have essential clothing and many Dublin children have received a bicycle or much wished for toy from her efforts or at times her own pocketbook.
Born in near Paducah in Cottle County in the late 1920’s Goodwin was the only child of a very devoted mother and a rarely present father. These were hard days for everyone, but Goodwin learned that though she and her mother worked very hard, they were not a part of the social circle of the community.
Catching a rare ride into town to church, they were not warmly welcomed into the congregations and eyebrows were raised at their presence. Therefore, Goodwin is plainspoken, tells it like it is, and has no use for hypocrites.
Little did she know that these very dark days of her growing up years were the very training ground that would allow her to do the work of bringing aid, self-respect, and a helping-hand to a multitude in need.
Having walked in the shoes of the child who didn’t have the right clothes, didn’t live in the fashionable part of town, didn’t belong to the “in” crowd, she can spot quickly the people who really need help.
Goodwin and her mother sold chickens, eggs, butter, always had a big garden and had people to whom they sold peas, corn, and watermelons, etc. A farmer in their community told her mother that if she’d had a man to help her, she would have been a millionaire.
Growing up with a very wise grandmother who taught her to be proud, hold her head up, look ahead and keep going, Goodwin asked this astute lady why life was so hard for their family. Her grandmother replied, “We have strong shoulders; we can bare it.”
Providing sage advice on working hard, staying out of trouble, and straight talk about life, this wise one with whom Goodwin picked up tobacco sacks from the roadsides was also very talented and fashioned these scraps into quilts to earn extra money.
Goodwin didn’t finish high school, but went to work first as a soda jerk, then in the abstract office, later in the county clerk’s office. She had learned typing before leaving school.
She and her mother moved to Lubbock and she attended Draughn’s Business College. During that time her mother worked for a factory that made seat covers. It took 13 months to complete the business course. After business school, she went to work in a bank.
The young man Goodwin would eventually marry volunteered for the marines in 1943 and within 12 weeks of entering the military, was the sole survivor of a bombed out foxhole in Sipan. He spent the next two years in a San Diego hospital before finally making his way back to Texas.
Having written to him everyday during his time of service, Goodwin was devastated when he ended their relationship. In the years that followed, life was very uneven, going through several jobs, her car was wrecked, and there were many bills, but she always had the support of her mother.
Around Christmas 1953, Goodwin went into Amarillo with a group of friends from the hospital where she then worked and ran into this young man. He got her phone number; they got back together and were married in January 1954.
Goodwin’s husband was from a family that owned land and farmed cotton. Her husband moved her mother in to live with them and they resided comfortably and successfully near Paducah.
Son Robert was born in 1954 with daughter Gay in 1958. Both children were cherished and this family established in the mid-1950’s was completely different from the ones Goodwin and her husband had grown up in.
Both Robert and Gay came to Stephenville to attend Tarleton State University and this brought Goodwin and her husband to the area often for visits.
Losing her beloved mother in 1983 was an overwhelming blow. Her husband’s health failed and they had left farming in 1978 and moved to the Dublin area in 1984. They were close to their kids, but the move was a difficult adjustment.
Life became very dark when her husband died in 1990. She found herself completely lost. In the aftermath of these combined losses, her health suffered.
In working to regain her stamina, she was told to find a support group and get involved with a church. She did and found a rewarding role in giving back, taking care of people who didn’t have advocates, people much like she had been as a child.
First getting involved with an Al-Anon group in Stephenville and later with the First Baptist Church of Dublin, she regained her bearings. When FBC’s Clothes Closet asked for help in getting its contents better organized, Goodwin volunteered.
Through this group, she collected the sizes of clothing and needs of many youngsters in town as well as those of nursing home residents. Through donations made to the Clothes Closet, she was able to get new socks, new underwear, new shoes, usually a couple of new outfits for each child and get the essentials for some older residents at Christmas.
Goodwin has served the community for many years and will be remembered by hundreds both young and old for her zeal to see that people who could not care for themselves had what they needed, with new things coming usually at Christmas, but any items from the facility always going out clean and well-mended.
When her involvement with the FBC was dissolved a couple of years ago, she became an active member of the Goodfellows Organization to do the same type of work: learning which families needed help, shopping for age appropriate toys and gifts for youngsters and putting together food boxes.
Presently less in active in Goodfellows, Goodwin puts the bulk of her energy into working with the nursing home residents. Though many people shirk this duty, Goodwin works very hard seeing to needs of these people.
With help from the FBC Senior Adult Department, gifts have continued to be purchased for nursing home residents. Emphasizing that help from other community churches have made this assistance possible, Goodwin has also received personal checks from Dublin businessmen as well.
Untold hours of time in organizing, shopping—often making trips to Ft. Worth to get hard to find sizes, tagging, delivering, etc. have been spent by this very special Christmas Lady. Each organization that she has worked with has had other volunteers laboring beside her; however, Goodwin has a special gift of discernment.
She lives comfortably near her family where she is much loved and depended on, but it is her early experience as a child of the depression years and one that bore the added burden of difficult circumstances that has given her the heart to help the people she does.
When sponsors are required for needy elderly residents or local youngsters who won’t see anything under the tree for Christmas, people around town know to call Billie Goodwin—she get results! Having walked in the shoes of the people she helps, Goodwin’s heart is in exactly the right place.
That is what makes her “The Christmas Lady” and a Dublin Legend.
And one thing that Patty did not tell you is that Billie Goodwin is 90 years young and still doing for others. What an inspiration!