Robert Polk Womack
November 8, 1929 – October 9, 2018
By Scott Armentrout and Bennett Whipple
Robert P. (Bob) Womack, an ebullient and sagacious early resident of Big Canoe for 28 years and former POA board president, died Tuesday Oct. 9 at Piedmont Mountainside Hospital in Jasper. He was approaching his 89th birthday this November. He had lived in Big Canoe full time from 1984 until 2012. At the time of his death Womack was living in The Lodge at Bridge Mill near Canton, Ga.
During Womack’s tenure on the POA board, he led the movement to acquire the Canoe Lodge which was about to be sold to a private individual as a cottage. That building was then remodeled and now serves as the administrative offices for the POA. At another time, he was instrumental in working out arrangements for the present postal facility in Wolfscratch Village. Prior to that time, mail had been delivered to the Country Store located in the first level of the former Wilde Onion building. When that space became overcrowded, the Jasper postmaster wanted to install large blocks of mail boxes outside the Main Gate. Building the postal facility avoided that mess.
Womack and his wife Nancy first bought property in Big Canoe in 1974 after reading about a new development by Tom Cousins in North Georgia. Like so many folks who buy property here, the Womacks were sold the day they came in the gates and bought a lot on Crazy Bear Ridge. In the early days they rented a Treetopper on weekends. In an article in Smoke Signals at the time he moved to Canton, Womack recalled, “We stayed in Treetopper rentals, the center of social life back then. One was used as a bar. It was connected by a bridge to a unit used as a dining room.” During those days there was a toll charge for phone calls between Dawson and Pickens counties, so if one lived in Dawson and wanted to make a call to the golf course, there was a fee. To counterbalance the phone fees, there was no charge for amenities in Big Canoe in those days.
There was one nine-hole golf course, Creek, which was free for property owners to play. There was also a barber shop at the old Canoe Lodge, another unique feature of the early days. Albert Hamrick came to Big Canoe once a week from his Palace Barber Shop in Jasper to cut hair. Womack remained faithful to Hamrick’s tonsorial services after Womack’s move to Canton. His loyalty to friends ran deep. Just as he maintained his relationship with Hamrick, Womack remained faithful to Pam Richardson, a cashier at the Foothills IGA where he would shop and always check out in her lane when she was available. Golf was a big part of Womack’s life in retirement, and he maintained a close relationship to his golfing clique throughout his life.
In addition to Big Canoe, Womack had a deep involvement with the Episcopal Church of the Holy Family in Jasper where he was involved in the early formation of the church and acquisition of land. Later he served as chair of the building committee and in various other positions. He told many stories of the times when the small episcopal congregation met in various places in Bent Tree and Jasper, including the chapel at Roper Funeral Home until the church bought property and obtained a temporary building for services. In honor of his wife Nancy, who died in 1996, Womack built a pavilion at the episcopal church which is used for outdoor events. He maintained a continuing connection with Holy Family throughout his life. When he was unable to travel to the church, volunteers would bring Womack communion and electronic recordings of the Sunday service.
The Big Canoe trail leading to the third waterfall in Nature Valley was blazed by his late wife Nancy Womack and is named for her.
Womack had a wonderful institutional history of Big Canoe and maintained a deep interest in the goings on after he moved, keeping in touch via Smoke Signals and multiple daily phone conversations with his friends here. When told of “major issues” in the Village of Big Canoe, he was wont to recall similar events from the 80s, 90s or 00s—akin to the insurance company ads which say, “We’ve been there, done that.” He often laughed at his vote while on the POA board opposing the building of the Fitness Center. “I thought it would be a financial disaster,” he would say. “I wish every mistake I made had turned out so well.”
Prior to retirement in Big Canoe, Womack had been an executive for 32 years with Southern Bell with various responsibilities in Atlanta and throughout the State of Georgia. In his early days after retirement in Big Canoe he owned and operated an AT&T store in Gainesville.
Born Nov. 8, 1929, Robert Polk Womack spent his early years in the northeastern Alabama town of Scottsboro. He later moved to Chattanooga, where he worked as a newsboy selling papers and as a “soda jerk” at a neighborhood drug store. He graduated from The Baylor School there and the University of Chattanooga in 1952. He recalled travelling by train with his mother to observe the festivities accompanying the premier of the movie “Gone with the Wind” which opened at Loew’s Grand Theater in Atlanta in December 1939. Following graduation from university, he served three years active duty in the U.S. Navy as a gunnery officer aboard the USS Meredith.
He is survived by his nephew, Mark Womack of Birmingham, Ala. and two great nephews, Beau Womack of Huntsville, Ala. and John David Womack of Birmingham, Ala.; two sisters-in-law Susan Thompson Cleary (Tom Cleary) and Alice Thompson of Columbia, S.C.
A requiem eucharist was held Wednesday Oct. 17 at the Episcopal Church of the Holy Family in Jasper. Interment was at the Big Canoe Chapel Cemetery where his wife Nancy is buried. Memorial gifts may be made to the Holy Family Episcopal Church, 202 Griffith Rd., Jasper, GA 30143.