November 30, 2011.
Litchfield rest home from the Sandy Caffee collection.
Comment - Janet Grimstead Simons: the Litchfield house is where Mary Delon lived after her husband, Capt. Tom Delon died in 1933. I'm not sure when she moved. I remember visiting her at "Miss Susie's" (Litchfield) when I was a little girl. She moved to Norfolk sometime later with Dad's older sister as I remember her coming to the farm with them.
From the KI Junior Historian Assoc. March 1, 1959. Newspaper unknown.
Knotts Island - The young and the old have reason to be grateful to
Mrs. Susie Litchfield. As a midwife, she officiated at the arrival of
320 babies on Knotts Island (population 300). Some years ago she “gave
up her papers” and turned her full attention to the old. Her white
frame house now holds seven elderly patients, including two who are
bedridden, a blind brother and sister and a mute.
Mrs. Litchfield, a native of Nansemond County, came to the island in 1919. With only informal training from a local doctor, when she was “just a girl”, she has looked after generations in this isolated farming community.
Her Own Family
“I’ve tended to children and then borned their children,” she says. Her own family includes four generations- the twice widowed Mrs. Litchfield, a daughter, two grandchildren and three great-grandchildren.
Sitting with her charges by the stove in the front room, the aproned 65-year-old said, “This is a humble house.” Then she declared, as if to reinforce the religious mottoes hanging on the walls, “But it’s not my house. It’s God’s house.”
Mrs. Litchfield doesn’t talk much, but her few words say a great deal.
Asked why she began nursing the aged, she replied simply, “My conscience led me to it. I had the information and the training to do it. My home has never been without somebody of that kind, even before it was completed.”
Teeth Can Wait
Mrs. Litchfield doesn’t have time to worry about herself. “My teeth don’t fit right,” she apologized cheerfully. “I go where duty calls - the teeth can wait.”
“I’m not suffering for want of teeth. Besides, I don’t like them very well anyway,” she smiled impishly.
“I haven’t had but two hours sleep in three nights,” she continued. “You get casehardened to it. Besides, the older you get the less sleep you need. Last night I didn’t lay down at all. I just sat on a chair and nodded a while.”
Mrs. Litchfield and her first husband built the house, since expanded, in 1921. Someone asked him, she says, “Who was that boy you had up on the top of the house with you?” “I’d better not tell,” he replied diplomatically.
Mrs. Litchfield has remained self-sufficient. Her only help is from her daughter, Mrs. Cooper, who lives down the lane and comes over from ? to 1 p.m. each day.
She raises chickens for “family use.” In the backyard are ? plus some ducks, which are destrined for the freezer.
Peaches, grapes, pears, apples - these come from the yard but Mrs. Litchfield no longer grows her own vegetables.
“My son-in-law’s raising me a garden back there. He’s got tractors and conveniences,” she explains. In return, he grows corn on the land that is a buffer to keep her neighbors from living too close.
Tends Own Flowers
Mrs. Litchfield does tend her own flowers. To let someone else clean up her yard might be disastrous, because, she notes, “Some people don’t like flowers.”
Mrs. Litchfield’s excited explanation of her garden is ample proof that she doesn’t feel that way. “Box flowers”- coleus, begonias, geraniums- are wintering indoors. The summer garden will also be brightened by zinnias and other flowers she starts in a cold frame to get early blooms.
Next fall she plans to enclose an angle of the house with plastic to make a greenhouse. The winter flowers there, she feels, will “make pleasure” for those who are confined to the house but can look out of the window.
Her concern for flowers to cheer her patients as well as food and nursing to keep them well may be one of the reasons, the doctor observes, on his frequent visits, that Mrs. Susie Litchfield’s old people are always cheerful.
She’s Going to Heaven
CREEDS- Dr. I. L. Hancock, the nearest doctor to Knotts Island, has
learned to admire Mrs. Susie Litchfield in the years they have worked
“If there’s ever one lady who’s going to heaven, she’s going there,” he guesses.
“She’s not a nurse- just one of those old-time motherly people who have to do something for everybody else,” he characterizes her.
The doctor describes the Litchfield home as “crude, but clean. It’s not all this polished, shined-up stuff, but it’s got the real stuff,” he adds. The “real stuff,” he explains, is good substantial food, excellent nursing care, absolute cleanliness.
“Some things she’s done would never get done in a hospital. I wouldn’t do what Susie Litchfield does if they paid me a thousand dollars a day,” the doctor comments.
“She’ll follow orders. If I told her to jump out of the window, she’d jump,” he claims.
No job is too disagreeable for Mrs. Litchfield, he says, and small as she is, she somehow finds the strength to pick up her patients and turn them over without help. She uses an eyedropper to give food drop by drop to a woman too feeble to eat.
Mrs. Litchfield’s patients respond to her interest. “She can get medicine in them when nobody else can,” says the doctor. Her dedication is the reason Hancock can say of a critically ill patient, “I don’t know what is keeping her living. It’s not medicine, so it must be the attention.”
As for her budget, the doctor says, “Frankly, I don’t know how she does it.
“Susie never spends a dime. Oh, she buys things for the house, but I’ve never known her to buy a new dress. She’d give you the shirt off her back- but don’t push her.”
Comment Carole Strawhand: I loved that lady and I believe I was one of her "babies" I always think of her and miss her still. Dr Hancock from Creeds told mama she should go to the hospital because of her first child being a problem delivery (in New York) but mama thought differently. I was a nurse working in VBGH in the early 80's when Ms Susie was a patient and we met on the elevator in the middle of the night (I recognized her voice). She also "treated my multiple bee stings with "snuff". One time as a young child when I accidently got in a wasp nest in the grapevine she heard me screaming from her house and came over to help. I wasn't happy to have snuff smeared all over me but it helped. One of her patients, "Garland" was a blind man and he would read his book (in braillie) to me sometimes when I visited her. His sister, Reefee, also blind, lived there also. I heard "Miss Susie" was quite a colorful character in her early years and had several husbands but it was before my time. I miss her to this day. The old house still stands today although it is in bad shape.
Comment Rod Mann: I checked Melinda's "Cemeteries of Knotts Island" and saw that Susie lived to be nearly 99 years old, 1887 - 1986, and is buried in the small Cooper Family plot (her daughter married a Cooper) on Litchfield Lane off of West Blackfoot Road.