HUNTINGTON — For 27 years, Wynona Maynor pressed seams and waistbands of Corbin Ltd. pants. The money from her job helped raise four kids.
Each summer, she helped her husband raise a big garden. She, her kids and her husband built a bathroom and kitchen onto their four-room house. They replaced the roof themselves.
Her life did not center on her job. "I was a mom and grandmom," she said. "We were just living our lives. But then this happened."
In 2001, Corbin's self-funded insurance quit paying employees' medical bills without telling them.
Maynor was local union president. One woman after another called her in tears, asking for help, telling her a hospital or doctor's office had threatened to sue or refused to see them. "They'd signed those papers that say if the company doesn't pay, you will," she said.
She stared making phone calls and sending out letters. Demands on her time quickly snowballed.
"It more or less took over her life, which was good for the rest of us, but I know it was hard on her," said fellow seamstress Willa Bias.
In the past two years, Maynor has spent hundreds — maybe thousands — of dollars she didn't have. She bought a small copier and a fax machine. She sent out hundreds of letters and called dozens of lawyers. She set up meetings with state officials and badgered the governor at a town meeting. She got the state Division of Labor to audit the Corbin debt records. Sen. Jay Rockefeller, D-W.Va., writes her letters that begin "Dear Wynona."
Her home was soon awash with papers. She was constantly on the phone or computer. She brought the union file cabinet home. "My whole family was irritated with me for a year, because I pretty much lived, drank and slept this Corbin mess. It got kind of hard for them."
She was not saddled with a big debt. "$2,500. Nothing compared to some other people."
So why did she do all this?
"I just got mad," she said. "I worked with those people for years. We were like family. They didn't do anything wrong, and some of them, their lives have been wrecked.
"I don't want people thinking I'm a martyr or something. I never did anything like this before. It just happened to me. I did it because it's just not right."
"She has been a lifeline," said former Corbin seamstress Sheila Russell. "We all had ideas about what we could do, but she made them happen."
"She's not afraid of anybody," said Judy Newton. "She doesn't quit till she gets an answer."
Maynor says the memory of Barbara Nottingham inspires her. Nottingham worked for Corbin 33 years before she died of an aneurysm in 2003.
"She spent her last year frantic about leaving these debts to her family," Maynor said. "She called me every day, and when I get exhausted, I think of her and get mad again.