The 1910s were an auspicious decade for Spartanburg's Woodward family.
After prompting from another local funeral home owner, John Woodward and his associates decided to build a mortuary in 1916 for people of color during a time when segregation was enforced by law.
Then in 1918, the Spanish Flu swept through the Upstate and swamped the state's hospitals as the mortality rate for the flu, in conjunction with pneumonia, climbed to 70%. By October 1918, the infection rate in Greenville averaged 1,000 per day, according to an article from the University of South Carolina, Institute of Southern Studies.
Spartanburg had begun to feel the brunt of the virus in September and shuttered all public gatherings 11 days later, the article said.
"This is our second pandemic that we've dealt with," Woodward's daughter, Kay, said.
Woodward's job put him on the front lines of an even more deadly virus than today's new coronavirus. Today, his daughter continues to run JW Woodward Funeral Home, the city's oldest African American-owned business, as president, but she is also heading up another relief effort this time targeting economic recovery.
When the chamber asked Woodward to co-chair Spartanburg Area Chamber of Commerce's Bringing Back the Burg task force with David Britt, vice president of Tindall Corp.'s South Carolina division, she knew that she would be too busy during a deadly pandemic, but given the circumstances and her unique position within both the public health and busines community she said yes anyway.
"I look at this as a balancing act, carrying two weights: dealing with COVID-19 from a safety perspective, concurrent with bringing business back in a safe way. And the two can merge. It's a challenge, because every business is very different. Some businesses are clearly impacted in a greater way than other businesses," Woodward said.
She argues that education, compliance and innovation are key in reopening the area's economy without inducing another wave of infection.
Innovation for Woodward meant finding ways for mourning clients to come together while staying apart.
"We have had to be very creative in terms of celebrating the lives of those who have passed," she said. "We can celebrate, but we celebrate in...