Charles Edward Woodsby (Charley)
passed away peacefully on July 28, 2022 at the age of 91. Charley was a devoted
Christian man born in Spartanburg, SC to the late Lucy Sanders and William Dan
Woodsby. Charley came from a family of nine where everyone had to pitch in to
make ends meet. Charley’s parents worked hard to keep a roof over their heads
and bellies full during the Depression, which taught him a valuable lesson. Living
through these difficult times motivated him to strive for a better way of life.
This drive brought Charley nearly 70 years of success in the restaurant
Charley got his first job at a
grocery store when he was 11. At the age of 15, Charley enlisted in the Air
Force for three years. He then attended Cecil Business College followed by The
Hotel and Restaurant School of New York City, majoring in Hotel and Restaurant
bought and operated his first restaurant in 1954 at the age of 23 in Atlanta, GA.
Two years later he sold that establishment and converted an old grocery store
into a 200-seat restaurant. In 1960, he moved to Jacksonville, FL and formed a
business partnership that would change the rest of his life.
While in Jacksonville, Charley purchased
the Thunderbird Restaurant with his new business partners William and D.C.
Darden. Two years later, Charley and his partners bought Gary’s Duck Inn, one
of the most famous family restaurants in Orlando. Numerous other restaurants
were started by the team in the early sixties including The Green Frog in Adel,
GA, The Coach House in Greenville, SC, the Towne House in Columbia, SC and the
Old South in Jacksonville, FL.
success of Gary’s Duck Inn, Charley had a vision for a family style seafood
restaurant offering affordable prices. In developing this concept, he applied
what he learned to be the three principles of success in his industry: quality,
value and service. He felt strongly that a restaurant that offers fine food,
served promptly and congenially, at an affordable price, would succeed.
In 1968, Charley and William Darden
opened the first Red Lobster in Lakeland, FL. It was an immediate success and
within two years, five more Red Lobsters were opened. In 1970, the pair
received a generous offer from General Mills Restaurants, Inc. to acquire the
business. Charley signed a three year management contract where he helped
develop and open 72 Red Lobster locations. As part of his responsibilities, he
supervised the corporation’s real estate, construction, purchasing and
operations departments. As Red Lobster continued to grow, he developed four
regional offices in St. Louis, Atlanta, Dallas and Orlando.
At the age of 42, Charley retired
from the General Mills organization but in just one year, he was back in
business with his son, Ron. Together they opened the first Talk of the Town
Restaurant in Lakeland, FL. Over the next five years, they opened Talk of the
Town Restaurants in Winter Haven, Clearwater, St. Petersburg and Orlando. In
1984, they took their restaurants in a new direction and opened a high-end
steakhouse using only the highest quality and standards. Ron suggested renaming
the restaurants after their founder – and Charley’s Steak House was created.
Talk of the Town Restaurants encompassed 10 restaurants with 5 different
concepts in Central Florida. They employed nearly 1500 people, making a
sizeable impact on the area’s economy.
Charley’s faith was central to his
life and guided his many charitable endeavors. Feeling blessed by his success,
in 1998 Charley and his first wife, Jean, established a private foundation.
Through the foundation, they contributed to numerous ministries throughout Central
Florida, the United States and globally. Some of their most gratifying work was
done in Honduras where they sponsored 6 children every year, which meant
providing healthcare, clothing, food allowances and tuition for their
education. They were most proud of funding the building of four churches in
Honduras to promote the Christian faith.
Sadly in 2005 Charley lost the love
of his life, his wife of 55 years, Jean Harris Woodsby. But God was good and
sent him a second soulmate, MaryLou Johnson, and in 2007 they were married. Charley and MaryLou loved to travel both
for pleasure and to take the gospel to unreached areas of the world. In recent
years the couple has continued the original vision of the foundation by placing
their focus on the Jesus Film, a motion picture made in 1979 according to the
Gospel of Luke. It has now been translated into over 2,000 languages around the
world. When they were not traveling, Charley and MaryLou loved spending their
summers away from the Florida heat at their mountain home in Highlands, NC.
There they loved playing cards and golf croquet with their many friends.
Charley was a loving husband, father, grandfather and great-grandfather
to his beautiful family, of which he was very proud. He enjoyed golf, tennis,
fishing, swimming and spending time with his family. He will be remembered as a
kind, generous, thoughtful, fun-loving friend to all who had the honor of knowing
has always been quality, value, service and integrity; be honest, be truthful
and treat people with respect. My faith has also always been very important to
me. I believe God guided me in all directions of my life, putting the right opportunities
and the right people before me at the right time.” – Charley Woodsby
Charley is preceded in death by his
wife, Jean Harris Woodsby, and grandson Joshua William Parrish.
Charley is survived by his wife,
MaryLou Woodsby; children, Ronald Edward Woodsby (Dana), Deborah Woodsby Thrash
(John), and Sherry Woodsby Parrish (Earl); stepdaughters, Jennifer Christine
Snell (Nate), and Kristin Johnson Levy (Sean); grandchildren, Edward Clark
Woodsby (Emily), James Harris Woodsby (Sarah), Shannon Thrash Parrish (Jay),
Jennifer Thrash Lassabe (Keith), John Edward Thrash, III (Yesenia), and Nicole
Jean Parrish; and step grandchildren, Dylan Hageman, Beckett Snell, Hendrix
Snell, Brooklyn Levy, Londyn Levy and Asher Levy. He was also survived by
brother, Billy Eugene Woodsby (Joanne) and many nieces and nephews.
Charley was blessed with 14
precious great-grandchildren, Cora, Ruby, Jasper, Belle, James, Rose, Leila,
Jayce, Alex, Madison, Tanner, Aiden, Zyair and Bentley.
On Wednesday, August 3 there will
be a Visitation at 10 a.m. and a Celebration of Life at 11 a.m. held in the
Henry Chapel at First Baptist Orlando, 3000 S. John Young Parkway, Orlando. A
reception will immediately follow. There will be a private family burial.
In lieu of flowers, donations may
be made to: One More Child, 1015 Sikes Blvd., Lakeland, FL, 33815.