AMHERST COUNTY, Va. – Mary Fannie Woodruff, known to many as Mama, died of natural causes Tuesday at the age of 104.
She helped her three daughters — Angela Scott, Darnelle Winston and Darnette Hill — run Woodruff’s Café & Pie Shop in Amherst County.
Mama was famous for sitting on “her bench” and striking up a conversation with customers.
“She just loved people. She cared for people, and it was her life being here,” said Scott.
And customers loved Mama.
“She meant a lot to the community. She was just a happy person,” said customer Brenda Staton.
“She was always a bright star here. You walk in, she smiles. She tells you the same stories, but you always want to hear them,” said Jim Lindsay.
“She would tell you stories about her childhood. The one I remind is that she would ride a mule to the post office and back. She was a very sweet lady,” said Donna Hedrick.
As sweet as the homemade pie, the matriarch helped make the pie shop a dessert destination.
Her family says Mama’s energy was contagious, even as her health declined due in part to dementia, But that didn’t stop her from appearing on TODAY with Al Roker right before the pandemic.
“We had warned [Roker] that there was a little dementia there, so he knew how to handle it. It was kind of a fun moment there [when Mama asked Roker who he was],” said Winston.
Fun moments were part of the Christian woman’s motto.
“Do unto others as you would have them do unto you. That was so important to her,” said Hill.
The Amherst native originally opened the location as a grocery store in the 1950s, while raising her family in the apartment upstairs.
Mama helped open the pie shop in 1998 and continued to lend a hand up until the very end.
Her family promises to carry her legacy.
“We’re just going to keep going. She would want us to do that,” said Scott.