Queen Esther Woods spent most of her life as a caregiver, starting when she was 9, and she accompanied her mother to work as domestic worker in their native Tuscaloosa, Ala.
Mrs. Woods helped care for the infant son of the family that hired them, earning 50 cents a week, plus writing tablets, pencils and crayons for school.
Mrs. Woods died Saturday in Niagara Lutheran Health System, where she once worked caring for others. She was 85.
The former Esther Lavender attended both Central and Industrial high schools in the Tuscaloosa school system. She married Roosevelt Woods in 1937. The couple moved to Lackawanna in 1940 and joined Mount Olive Missionary Baptist Church, where Mrs. Woods served as a member of the senior choir, the Sunday school board of trustees, floral club and deaconess board.
She was president of the church's mission board for 20 years and was one of the charter members of both its nurses' and pastor's aides' guilds.
Mrs. Woods also sang with the New York State Baptist Choir and the Great Lakes Association Choir, among many others.
Over the years, Mrs. Woods worked at various times in the Trico windshield wiper plant and as a nurse's aide at several hospitals, including Women and Children's Hospital, Deaconess Hospital and Niagara Lutheran.
According to her family, Mrs. Woods was one of the first black audio technicians hired by the Erie County Health Department to test the hearing of children attending Buffalo Public Schools. She retired from that job in the 1990s.
For more than 50 years, Mrs. Woods sporadically took on the care of sick and elderly friends, often in her own home and with no thought of compensation, her daughter Kimberly Wallace said.
Mrs. Woods also was involved in numerous service organizations, including the Household of Ruth, the Women's Auxiliary of the African American Odd Fellows, which was organized in 1857. In that capacity, Mrs. Woods served as most noble governor.
Since age 16, she had been a member of the Eastern Star organization and had attained the title of worthy matron of Sisters of Jeremiah No. 31.
She was a longtime sponsor of the Summer Training and Educational Program at the University at Buffalo.
In addition to her husband of 65 years, Roosevelt, Mrs. Woods is survived by two sons, John and Larry; four daughters, Esther Gibson, Sandra Steele, Kimberly Wallace and Celestine Lowe; and her 102-year-old mother, Electa Courton.
Her funeral is at 11 a.m. Friday in Mount Olive Baptist Church, 66 Wasson Ave., Lackawanna.