Profile on Longevity - Elizabeth Stith

Messenger Staff

estith.jpg (17684 bytes) the Meade County Messenger
Community, page B1

January 10,2007

Elizabeth Enfield Stith was born May 8, 1919, the middle child of Thomas E. Stith and Dona Miller Stith. Thomas was a farmer and Dona was a housekeeper. Elizabeth had two siblings - older brother Harold and younger sister Helen.

Elizabeth recalls the kids having a great time growing up on the farm. "We had no TV or radio at first," said Elizabeth, "so our entertainment was our imaginations."

During her youth, Elizabeth received her education in a oneroom schoolhouse called Shumate School, which was located in Stith Valley. Following grade school, she attended Meade County High School. As was the case with many young people back at that time, Elizabeth boarded with relatives in Brandenburg in order to attend high school. "The roads were so bad back then," said Elizabeth, who performed light housekeeping as repayment to her cousin Ruth Scott and family for allowing her to board with them.

Following graduation from MCHS in 1937, Elizabeth decided to pursue her desire to become a nurse. "The only alternative," said Elizabeth, "was to teach school, and I didn't want to do that."

Elizabeth wanted to attend nursing school at Kentucky Baptist Hospital in Louisville. Her cousins Cornelia and Francis Stith were both students there, and her other cousin Blanche Drury who had already earned her RN from this program. However, Elizabeth was told she was too underweight to be admitted to the school and so she had to gain some weight first. "That was no problem," said Elizabeth, "because I liked to eat." She began nursing school in 1938 and graduated in 1941. After taking and passing the state boards, Elizabeth realized her dream of becoming an RN.

Beginning her nursing career as a surgical nurse, Elizabeth's first month's pay was just $50. "I thought I was rich," said Elizabeth. The medicines available back then were quite limited, said Elizabeth, with no antibiotics yet available and a very primitive treatment for heart disease. Eventually came sulfa drugs and penicillin and things took a turn for the better in the treatment of infections. Many medical advancements occurred over the years, and Elizabeth found it very interesting to be a nurse.

After working as a scrub nurse for awhile, Elizabeth decided obstetrics was more to her liking. In order to qualify for an upcoming supervisory position, she went to the University of Chicago for four months to obtain the required training. Upon her return to Kentucky, Elizabeth accepted a supervisory position in obstetrics. "Many baby boomers were born on my floor, including members of my family," said Elizabeth.

In 1975, Elizabeth went to the then newly-built Baptist East Hospital and was in charge of hiring all the RNs, aides, orderlies, and clerks, remaining in this position until her retirement in 1981. She still keeps in touch with people at the hospital as well as two of her closest friends -old nursing buddies Eleanor Haswell and Kate Priddy.

Following retirement, Elizabeth returned to her roots in Meade County, settling in the Buck Grove community next door to her sister Helen Thomas Prather.

Elizabeth has attended Hill Grove Baptist Church all her life and was baptized in 1930. After she got her first car in 1960, she drove down from Louisville every other Sunday to teach children's Sunday school classes, alternating weeks with her sister-in-law Juanita Stith. Elizabeth was the church's assistant pianist from age 15 until 1996, when she gave up the position due to poor hearing.

Throughout her life, Elizabeth has always enjoyed traveling. Her first trip, an eight-day tour through New York City - cost only $80 in 1946. It was that trip that made her want to go other places, so in 1947 she traveled to Miami Beach and Cuba - before Castro. Between 1947 and 1995, she traveled to Canada, Russia, China, Australia, and New Zealand as well as all over the United States, including Hawaii and Alaska.

Each trip Elizabeth made was cause to add to her collection of cups and saucers that she purchased at every new destination. Her other hobbies over the years have included African violets and quilt making. She's currently working her 23rd quilt.

Yet as exciting as her career and traveling has been, family has always held equal importance to Elizabeth. "I have a wonderful family which includes five nephews, 10 great-nephews and nieces' and 16 great-great nephews and nieces. I never married; nursing was my career and my life. My 'kids' all call me 'Sis' or 'Aunt Sis' because that was what my brother called me and it stuck. We have family traditions, such as getting together at Christmas, and having homemade custard poured out of the same pitcher for over 50 years," said Elizabeth.

In June 2006, Elizabeth suffered a stroke which necessitated some life changes. She is currently residing at North Hardin Health and Rehab in Radcliff.

"It has been some experience," said Elizabeth. "Some good and some bad. I have recently been told not to expect anything better. I still have hope for the future, and I start physical therapy next week. I'm just not satisfied with satisfactory," she said.

But it is Elizabeth's family and friends that keep her spirits up and give her hope for the future.

"Without my wonderful family and church family," she said, "I could not survive."