I had to go to Tallahassee today which is 400 miles roundtrip and I came back and collapsed for a two hour nap so I’m a tad late.
My grandfather’s aunt was younger than him by a couple of years. She was my great-grandmother’s sister and her name was Lula-Mae Phillips before she married some guy named Haverstock who we saw maybe five times ever. My dad always said he was a weird guy, but I don’t remember much about him at all other than a shadowy figure in the corner. With Lula-Mae around, all I could focus on was her.
She literally was the dictionary picture of a flaming redhead. To a child under age 15, she was a blazing star. There was no one in the family quite like her. She smoked – all the time – and she had some really cool stories. She always entertained us and seemed to always be laughing. As an adult, I learned a lot more about her and my admiration grew. As a kid, she was just pure, plain fun and I always loved it when she was at my great-grandmother’s house when I was there, too. I knew she was a nurse, but as to the rest of her life, I had no idea.
As an adult, I learned she was an Army nurse who served in World War II and saw lots of terrible things. I also learned she obtained the rank of Major before she retired from the Army. She then went to work in a nuclear power plant as a nurse. She saved a lot of lives and did good things in the world.
To a kid, she was a fun-loving, crazy pal but to the world at large, she really made a difference in people’s lives. She was sadly taken from us with lung cancer (but she did live into her 70s) but you know, lots of people smoked back then. She would have the hospital staff roll her outside to smoke away from the oxygen tank in her room in the last days of her life. The family is convinced she’s still puffing away in heaven and entertaining folks with her stories and maybe even hanging out with some of the soldiers she helped save.