Monday, October 26, 2009

A Special Tribute to My Other Sister...........Nettie Sue Hurst

It occurs to me that many people don't know that I have a second sister: Nettie Sue Hurst.

How can that be you ask? Well I'm about to tell you.

Nettie Sue Hurst graduated from THS in 1962, a year behind me. Truth be known I really didn't know Nettie Sue very well in High School. First of all she was not in my class and secondly she was not a "town" girl. Now that fact alone didn't keep her out of my clique. But, in those days we were somewhat "class" conscious; not from a social standing mind you because none of us in those days had much social standing above anyone else in Lake County.

No, we were actually "CLASS OF" conscious. And my Class of 1961 just happened to be head and shoulders above all the other classes ahead of or behind us. We couldn't help it. We were just born that way. Don't take my word for it. Just ask any member of the Class of '61 and they will tell you we were the brightest, best looking, best behaved, most honored by the faculty, and above all most loved by ourselves.

And that fact for some unknown reason meant other classes just didn't associate with us much. Oh there were a few exceptions but for the most part the elite class of '61 suffered through our High Schools years in our own private little academically superior cocoon. Alas, it warped some of us for life.

Nettie Sue, despite being one of the "little people" graduated with honors and left Tiptonville to start her career in Nursing in Memphis. She went on to work in Nashville and Cleveland, Ohio. During all of that time away from her home town she continued to keep in touch with both Mother and Daddy as many of their former students have done through the years.

Well in 1977 James Neville LeDuke passed away following complications from major surgery, and coincidentally that same year Nettie Sue was making plans to return to Tiptonville and continue her nursing career in her home town. Mother invited Nettie Sue to stay with her until she decided where in Lake County she wanted to live and the two have been companions ever since.

Several years ago Sue decided to go back to school and get her Bachelors Degree. She and Mother both packed their bags and they rented an apartment in Millington. Sue worked at the Hospital there part time while attending Memphis State full time. Conveniently Mother had been going to Memphis weekly to take care of her Aunt Sally, so the move meant less traveling for Catherine back and forth from Tiptonville. Aunt Sally eventually moved into the nursing home in Tiptonville where she passed away at the age of 109.

Sue earned her degree, the two of them moved back home, and stayed settled for awhile. Then the academic bug bit Sue again. She and Mother moved to Nashville while Nettie Sue attended Vanderbilt University. After a year or so there Sue graduated with a Masters Degree as a Nurse Practitioner during which time Mother had "mastered" her typing and computer skills as chief "paper-typer" for Sue. Sue has put her skills to work in Lake County and the two of them seemed settled, at least for now.

It would be hard to tell exactly who has gained the most from this alliance that has grown so much over the years. Sue would have to be the one to add all the proper labels that would reflect the changes in the relationship over these 32 years since she and Mother became housemates.

One label that has been added several years ago happened when Cathie, Richard, and I enthusiastically began introducing Sue as our sister. After all, she has spent more time at 114 LeDuke Street than any one of us has.

We are all proud of our Sister Sue and know that Mother's life has been made far richer by her presence.

You can stop looking now. You have found your home in Lake County.


  1. 1977 was a rough year. Granddaddy Ben passed away in March, and although he and Daddy were not close, granddaddy and I were. He was 80 years old and working a sale north of Tiptonville. (He and Uncle Charles were auctioneers.) He stepped down off the back of the truck they used as their portable pedestal and passed away. I’ve always said that that is the way I want to leave this world, working at 80.
    Daddy on the other hand had surgery in June and never left the hospital. I was in Colorado when the call came that his surgery had not gone well. When Jimmy says he died of complications, he doesn’t mean like the next day. If fact, we all watched as he died a little bit each day for the next two months – unable to survive without the breathing machine. He was also unable to speak due to the same tube that supported his breathing. But we could all understand that he wanted to go home…now! After 30 years I can still not discuss this summer without grief and guilt – guilt of not being there for the surgery, guilt for leaving the hospital to come back to Tiptonville for a weekend or a week. Then the week before school was to resume (Mother and I were both still teaching at LCHS), he passed away; and again I was not there. For anyone interested in a point of reference in time, Daddy’s obituary was in the Memphis Commercial Appeal the same day Elvis died.
    Through all of this, the thing I remember most is Mother being in Memphis with Daddy; Mother and Sue. In fact, the only good thing I can remember about 1977 was Sue living with Mother. It seemed so natural. There was no discussion, it was just so. We had a new sister. And all our lives have been better for it. In addition to all that Sue has done for Mother, she has given the three of us children the ability to go on with our lives, knowing that Mother was safe. Thank you, Sue.
    Over the next couple of years after Daddy died, I had occasion to stay at Mother’s – late in 1977 and again the spring of 1979. I was staying upstairs in “Cathie’s” room that I had taken over while in high school after she left in 1958 for Memphis State and later married. Many nights as I tried my hardest to ascend the stairs in darkness and silence, I would have a LeDuke moment and either miss a step or slam into the wall. In the darkness, fighting back laughter, I would quietly say, “goodnight Sue” and to let me know that she was in fact aware, she would repeat, “good night”. This ritual has been replayed many times since 1977.
    Thanks again Sue, thanks for being there.

  2. Sue is truly an angel on earth. She is so giving and caring that it just flows from her so naturally. The family is truly blessed to have her. And I am sure she will be blessed for all that she has done for Bubba. We love you.