Don’t ever let the music die

When her oldest sister died of breast cancer, Rita Woods took to heart her sister’s wish – don’t ever let the music die.

By T.J. Banes, IU Health Senior Journalist,

There were 15 of them – fifteen kids born to George and Fannie Shouse. They grew up in the Apostolic Church in Terre Haute where their dad served as a pastor.

Rita Woods credits the church with introducing her family to music. “My family is a singing family. It’s our language that we learned early on in life,” said Woods, who is in the care of IU Health gastroenterologist Dr. Matthew Bohm. She’s had two surgeries for Crohn’s disease and comes twice a week to IU Health for infusions.

It was when she was battling her own health problems that her oldest sister Janice Warren became diagnosed with breast cancer. She died Sept. 3, 2018.

Warren, 16 years older than Woods was more like a mother figure. In fact, Woods turned 15 on the night their mother died.

“I was just starting high school and my older sisters were in college. I was the only one brave enough to start cooking,” said Woods. “It was my sister who taught me to make dressing. She taught me her secretarial skills, how to drive, and how to love people who weren’t blood.” Warren was known for taking in people who were sick or down on their luck.

Later in life, Woods and her daughter Kimberly Janeece – named after Warren – moved in with the older sister. At that time, Warren lived in Kokomo and taught high school English. She also taught at the college level and was a leader with the Pentecostal Church children’s ministry.

She also encouraged Woods to practice music.

“I learned to play the piano and she sang while I played. I wasn’t very good but when Janice got sick I’d play songs for her and send them every day,” said Woods. “Before she died she told me to never let the music die.”

Now Woods is on a quest. She wants to record a song in her sister’s memory.

“There are 11 of us left now and we’re all spread out – some in Terre Haute, some in Virginia Beach, some in Charlotte, N.C. My hope is that we can get together at Thanksgiving and make music for Janice,” said Woods. “We are her mouthpiece. We have to keep her memory alive and the way to do that is to never let the music die.”