Widow Woebe (Magnolia Woebe)

Magnolia means “flower.”

Isaiah 40:8 (NIV) — The grass withers and the flowers fall, but the word of our God stands forever.

Magnolia Woebe has always been skinny—bordering on bony—and fidgety, even as a young girl. She loves cherry Popsicles and books, books, books. Her shrill, birdlike voice has been heard in and around the library of Sunken Bridge Middle School for 50 of her 82 years. Retirement is out of the question because she wouldn't know how to act if she didn't have students to look after. If she retired, who else would pick up the baton to instill in these young people the old fashioned values she holds so dear? Who else would spend time helping them develop a genuine love for reading and an appreciation for the written word? After school, you'll find her at the Ashboro Library, her second favorite haunt. In fact, why not visit her there when you're finished reading this?

Don't be too quick to label Widow Woebe as a stereotypical librarian. After all, few lovers of books are such worrywarts or so superstitious or so eccentric as to meet a student in a broom closet. There's a reason the students affectionately call her “Widow Woebegone.” When her husband died after 40 years of marriage, she began the habit of wringing her hands and bemoaning aloud, “Woe is me — Sam is gone.” She always did nibble on her nails, but since Sam's death her nervous tendencies have become exaggerated. Now she paces and jumps at the slightest sound and goes “shh” even when nobody is around to make any noise.

There is some truth to the rumor that she had once been sweet on Warnard Elijah Stokes. In fact, he did carry her books in ninth grade, but other than mutual respect, no romance ever developed between them. About the time Warney went into the Navy and off to war, Sam swept Magnolia off her feet and into marital bliss that few have enjoyed. Now single again, after all these years, Magnolia battles feelings of betrayal toward the memory of her beloved Sam, wishing that her heart wouldn't flutter so at the mention of Warney's name. But the mystery of the Burnt Swamp diary that appeared in her library archives with Gavin's name on the wrapper is giving her more important things to think about. On the other hand, it may also serve as a reason for her to seek out and to talk with that old hermit Warney.

Oh, pshaw, don't be silly.