Woodie Durden McLean, 104

by | January 16, 2019 3:41 pm

   Funeral services for Woodie Durden McLean, 104, formerly of Swainsboro will be held at 10:30 a.m. on Saturday, January 19, 2019, at Mt. Calvary Baptist Church, located at 608 North Horners Lane, Rockville, Maryland. Wake service will begin at 9 a.m. until time of service. Interment will follow in Parklawn Memorial Park.

Ms. Woodie Durden McLean was born August 28, 1914 in Swainsboro to Lillie Belle and Lawton Durden. She was the younger sister of twin brothers Lucius and Luther, older brothers Charlie, John, Seth, Jack, and sister, Jency. During her 104 years, McLean experienced and embraced a world of much change. She was always a visionary. She was fortunate to have been born into a family who understood the importance of education for women. Her mother, Lillie Belle Williams Durden, was a graduate of Spelman Seminary (now Spelman College). After completing Swainsboro High School, McLean joined her older siblings in New York City with plans to continue her education. However, it was 1933 during The Depression and she understood the economic burdens her siblings bore and to her siblings’ dismay, McLean delayed her education, found employment, and contributed  to their communal well being. She readily found factory work in the clothing manufacturing industry, where her pay was based on productivity. Her speed and precision enabled her to thrive in New York City. 

McLean truly enjoyed being a young adult in the big city.  She remained closely connected with friends and family from Swainsboro, and in New York, married her childhood sweetheart, John C. McLean, in 1936. They both loved dancing and won several dance contests at the then-famed Savoy Ballroom in Harlem, New York.  The marriage later ended in divorce.

McLean’s quest for education did not wane. As the United States became deeply involved  in WWII, she continued working and attended Hunter College of New York, initially as a math major. Although math satisfied her need for precision, it did not satisfy her penchant for creating things. While working full-time, and the mother of a daughter, Lillian Beverly McLean, Woodie enrolled in the esteemed Pratt Institute in Brooklyn, New York, and earned a degree in fashion design. 

In 1948, McLean opened her own business, La Mode Dress Salon, in Manhattan. As her fashions became known, she was a much sought after designer. She clothed the wives and significant others of many professionals and well known entertainers of the day. She had fashion shows with headliner entertainment at the acclaimed Small’s Paradise in Harlem.

McLean, an astute business woman, sold her business after the birth of her second daughter Yvonne, to focus on motherhood. After just a few years at home, she returned to the workforce. This time, as a single mother of two girls, she decided a civil service position would afford her better long term benefits for herself and her children.  She began working for New York State, first in the Department of Motor Vehicles, then in the Department of Education and Vocational Rehabilitation, from which she retired after 35 years of service. 

She also had a second job as a part-time sales associate at Macy’s, which she continued until she reached a 35-year milestone, earning a lifetime discount.

At age 67 years, McLean felt she still had a lot to offer the world. She formed a loving bond with a very young child, Mesha, and embraced  her as a part of  her family. She imparted her three daughters, Lillian McLean Beard, Yvonne McLean Moore, and Mesha McLean Banks with strong values, a love of learning, and her drive to succeed.

Her children were learning the characteristics that  served Woodie well, as she became a skilled competitive bridge player. As an active American Contract Bridge League (ACBL) member and masterful bridge player, she competed successfully in many national and international tournaments. McLean and her table partner actually beat Bill Gates, Microsoft founder, and his table partner in the year 2000 ACBL tournament in Anaheim, California.   

McLean witnessed many historical events which include Charles Lindbergh’s U.S. Victory tour after he completed the first solo non-stop transatlantic flight, voting in every national and  local election since 1936, participating in every PTA where her children were enrolled in school, wrote monthly columns for her community, Goldens Bridge newspaper, served on the Katonah township council representing Goldens Bridge, and was a member of the Goldens Bridge Community Theater as an actor.

She actively participated in the election of our first African American President, Barack Obama. In fact, every time she saw the 44th president on the news, she proudly exclaimed, “That’s my President!”

McLean was an active member of Mount Calvary Baptist Church, Rockville, Maryland.

In her sense of community and attachment to her birthplace, McLean gifted what is now known as Lawton Durden Recreational Park of Crossing Green Community.

She was preceded in death by her daughter, Yvonne McLean Moore, who passed away in 2001.

Survivors include daughters, Lillian Beverly (DeLawrence) Beard M.D. and Mesha McLean (John) Banks; son-in-law, Bruce Moore; beloved care assistant, Judith Snowden; and a host of nieces, nephews, other relatives, and special friends.

McGuire Funeral Services is in charge of arrangements.

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