OXFORD, Ga. — Oxford's former, longtime maintenance director was fond of classic wooden wagons — the kind drawn by mules or horses and common up until the early part of the 20th century.
Roscoe Womack Jr. retired from the city in 2004 after 48 years of taking care of the city's sewers and streets.
He reportedly owned 11 wagons and a variety of mules and horses, family members said.
He often took part in Oxford's annual Fourth of July parades in wagons pulled by his two mules, Nell and Bell, family members said Tuesday.
So, it was only natural that Womack's widow, Rhonda, would request a mule-drawn wagon to transport his body and casket to its final resting place in Oxford Historical Cemetery.
Womack, 78, died Friday, Sept. 3, after being ill for a number of years, family members said.
A hearse carried Womack from Harwell and Son Funeral Home to an area near the cemetery. Pallbearers then placed the handmade casket in the mule-drawn wagon to its spot in the almost two-century-old cemetery on Georgia Hwy. 81.
Sammy LeVert of Good Hope owned the two mules that powered the wagon carrying Womack's casket. Mrs. Womack said she could have hitched Nell and Bell to the wagon and driven them but was glad the family found a "muleskinner" to do the job amid all the funeral preparations.
Longtime friend and neighbor Albert Lee Clark offered the eulogy. He remembered receiving vegetables from his garden and having long talks with his friend about School things as the weather.
"He called you the weatherman," one family member told Clark during the service.
Clark agreed, and recalled the years of knowing and living near Womack.
"I done lost a good neighbor," Clark said, as he stood by the casket.
Mrs. Womack said her husband had known Clark for years after he was "the only one who welcomed him" when he moved into their neighborhood. Clark also did the eulogies for other members of Womack's immediate family, she said.
Womack's first job with the city was driving a garbage truck for $47 a week on which he supported his wife and three children, according to the Oxford Historical Society.
Womack's nephews, Jody Reid and Scottie Croy, learned the utilities business while working for their uncle. Reid succeeded Womack as utilities supervisor for the city.
He said Womack's supervision of the department was "probably the best in the world" because he "did not cut corners" and passed that attitude to his successors.
"He done everything the hard way," Reid said.
But Womack had a side to him that enjoyed being in the spotlight, Mrs. Womack said.
In addition to Fourth of July parades, he also used his mule wagon to help Oxford College continue its tradition of welcoming Emory University's unofficial mascot, James Dooley — a student dressed in a skeleton costume — "rise to rule the campus" during Dooley Week each spring, Mrs. Womack said.
Mrs. Womack participated in the final part of the funeral ceremony when she helped release three white doves — one representing "Roscoe's spirit" and the other two "guardian angels to take him home," she said.
She said she was not surprised by the strong turnout of friends and relatives despite it being an early Tuesday afternoon service.
Many in the area had come to know her husband over the years in the community, as well as over the decades he helped build and maintain much of Oxford's infrastructure, she said.
"He was a well-liked man," she said.