She was ‘a friend to the whole wide world’ and one of the most generous women to ever set foot in Plant City. Now Plant City says goodbye to its beloved Maida Pou.
If you were lucky enough to have met Maida Pou — formerly Maida Badcock, whose family created Badcock Home Furniture — you walked away feeling as though you had just become acquainted with a dear friend.
Pou, 88, was born in Mulberry, where she attended high school before heading to Florida State College. She was married to the late Billy Pou for 52 years.
Her list of accomplishments is as long as her list of dear friends. She was devoted to and a trustee for First United Methodist Church of Plant City, UMC Children’s Home in Enterprise and Florida Southern College in Lakeland. Whenever there was a need Pou would step in and quietly take care of it.
“Maida would give you the shirt off her back,” Sally Verner, Pou’s best friend of 70 years, said. “She gave to all of those well-known charities and her church, but she also gave so much without anyone ever knowing. I am just now finding out about all of these blessings she did for other people that she never mentioned. She really was a remarkable woman.”
Verner met Pou when they were both sophomores in college. Their parents knew each other, but the girls had yet to meet. They were going on a trip to Europe together to visit a “whirlwind of countries” in approximately the span of one week. Verner said she stepped on the train and Pou immediately let out what came to be known as her iconic squeal of a greeting and told her she had been waiting her entire life to meet her.
Though Verner was skeptical they were destined to be she said Pou’s suspicions came true and they ended up being the greatest of friends. Pou was kind. But more than that, she genuinely cared about everyone she met. Her house is still packed to the brim with literally every single photograph and birthday or holiday card that was ever sent to her.
She kept them all and Verner said she cherished them more than many would ever know. Everyone she met she greeted as if seeing them was the highlight of her day. She kept up with her friends’ families and loved ones and was known by the children — and some adults too — in her life as “Maida Maida Sweet Potata.”
“Maida was a friend to the whole wide world,” Verner said. “She made you feel so special. She had this funny little welcoming shout when she saw you coming and I fully expect when I get to heaven to see Maida there at the gate giving that welcoming little shout saying, ‘Here she comes!’”
On Halloween, the Pous’ house was the place to be. She decorated to the nines and wore elaborate costumes to greet all of the trick-or-treaters. Though the day may be ghoulish, anyone who visited her door was sent away with the sweetest of treats.
Her love for children ran deep and many of her anonymous contributions over the course of her life have been used to benefit local youth. Mac Smith met Pou nearly 35 years ago at First United Methodist Church. He said the way she wielded her wealth and gave without asking for recognition spoke deeply of her genuine and moral character.
When he and Charles White approached her to help fund a new Boy Scout camp they were trying to establish, she gave without a second thought. Eventually, the plan “fizzled out” and they brought her check back to her. She refused to take it and told them to put it toward whatever project they had going that would do “the most good.” All she requested is they not mention her name.
“I just can’t help but speak well of her,” Smith said. “And we know that was just one example of the many things she’s done over the years. I don’t think anybody at this point would be surprised by what she’s done. It just fits her character.”
Pou never let a word of complaint leave her lips. Her motto, which she repeatedly used when asked how she was doing, remained the same for the entirety of her life. Regardless of what was going on in her life or what hardships she was facing she would simply reply, “I’m blessed.”
“She was so brave,” Verner said. “And a person of such great faith. Because of that, her funeral was actually so happy. She had said if it goes over 30 minutes long she would rise out of her casket and let us hear about it… We sang her favorite songs like ‘Jesus Loves the Little Children’ and just said goodbye to our dear, dear friend. There is no one like her in all the world. I was blessed to have her in my life.”