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World War II veteran Major Wooten, 105, loved country and his family

MADISON – Known for his outgoing personality and indomitable spirit, Major Lee Wooten died on Sept. 28 in hospice care with his family at his side.

Wooten was 105 years old. He served in the U.S. Army during World War II and helped liberate French citizens after landing at Utah Beach near Normandy. (‘Major’ is his legal name, not a military rank, despite his affiliation with the Army.)

A native of Cullman, Wooten lived for many years in Birmingham. In recent years, he lived primarily with relatives in Madison. He often shared stories of his service with community groups and schools.

“Major’s birthday was coming up on Dec. 3. He was going to be 106,” granddaughter Holly McDonald said. “He was already talking about his birthday (party) and inviting people. He loved his birthdays.”

When asked about his age, Wooten said he just didn’t think about it. “He lived as if he were well (younger than) he was. When he was 99, he lived as if he was in his seventies,” McDonald said.

Wooten’s family lived as sharecroppers in multiple locations in Cullman and Winston counties. He was the seventh of 12 children.

During the Great Depression, Wooten was 13 years of age when his father died. He had to quit school to help feed his family. “Major traveled to California with his brother Felton to work at a vineyard. Major became a lifelong Alabama football fan following their play in the Rose Bowl,” McDonald said.

Major and his late wife Jewell Cox Wooten were married for 75 years. Major worked 40 years for US Steel. World War II interrupted his career when he was drafted. He repaired bombed out rail cars, tanks, trucks and hospital cars to resupply the front line.

For his service to France in World War II, Major Wooten was presented the French Legion of Honor by the French Counsul General, on behalf of French President Emmanuel Macron.

In addition, Major received a Flag of Honor flag, which was designed to also include his three brothers who all served in World War II. One of Major’s brothers died in the war after stepping on a landmine.

When Jewell and their son Larry died, Major moved to Madison to live with his daughter-in-law Judy.

Major joined Madison American Legion, Post 229. He traveled to Washington D.C. with Honor Flights and accompanied “Forever Young Senior Veterans” on tours of Pearl Harbor, France, Belgium and Germany commemorating the 75th anniversary of D-Day and Battle of the Bulge. Major was an active member of “Honoring Veteran Legacies.”

Major is survived by his brother, Bill Wooten, and sister-in-law Lola; their son; Ronald Wooten (Marylee); daughter-in-law Judy Wooten; grandchildren Cindy Brophy (E.J.), Jenny Ryder (Sean), Holly McDonald (Dell), Stephen Wooten, Lea Anne Fernandez (Jose), Lauren Kiser (Mike), 18 great-grandchildren, two great-great grandchildren and many nieces and nephews.

“My grandparents were very hands-on and a huge part of our life,” Holly McDonald said. “Pop Pop picked me up from school and took us to East Lake Park in Birmingham. He would sit there and whittle a stick with his pocketknife.” Her grandparents also took McDonald and her two sisters to the zoo, shopping at Pizitz, Arlington Mansion, Birmingham Botanical Garden, Disney World and boating on Smith Lake.

Living in Madison, Major Wooten loved working in his vegetable garden and “piddling in the garage,” McDonald said. “He had a grinder and sharpened things. He built his workbench, two garden stands and an herb stand for my mom.”

Visitation will be open on Oct. 7 from 10 to 11 a.m. at Mount Zion Baptist Church at 228 Mount Zion Road. Wooten’s “Celebration of Life” will follow at 11 a.m. Immediately after the service, the procession lineup will assemble and will be led by Patriot Riders of the Shoals.

A graveside service will be held at Elmwood Cemetery at 600 Martin Luther King Jr. Drive in Birmingham at 3 p.m. Dr. Larry Wimberly will officiate.

In lieu of flowers, the family requests donations to Honoring Veteran Legacies. (honoringveteranlegacies.org/donate) Expressions of sympathy can be shared at valhallafunerals.com.

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