Poplar Grove Farm

Sally Lou Fitzhugh

Sally Lou Fitzhugh was the child of Lee and Sallie Fitzhugh. She was a schoolteacher for 32 years. She loved cats, PBS, and traveling.
Sally Lou Fitzhugh

Sally Lou Fitzhugh Table of Contents

by Jenny Smith, her great-niece

Sally Lou, called by those who loved her best “Aint Sallou”, was the daughter of Sallie Fitzhugh French and Lee Brockenborough Fitzhugh. She entered this world on January 16, 1931, the much loved and much spoiled youngest Fitzhugh child, who lived a charmed life all her days. She was 13 years younger than her older sister, my grandmother, Virginia Lee Fitzhugh (Moore), and 14 years behind her oldest brother, John French Fitzhugh (another older brother, Lee, died in toddlerhood). She was born at Poplar Grove Farm on Poplar Road in the Hartwood Rosehill area of Stafford County, Virginia, where she resided virtually her entire life.

Sally Lou was born in this house in 1931, shortly before it burned

Early Life

Sally Lou loved to tell stories of her childhood growing up on Poplar Grove farm, describing how she carried heavy buckets of water from the 1600s era spring house up the steep rise to the house until the family finally got a water pump; how much she missed the farm when the family was unable to take care of her after her father’s early death and her Aunt Edna Pilcher took care of her; how sick she was when she cut through the woods and got a terrible case of poison ivy that affected her lungs and resulted in several weeks of hospitalization; the year she spent in Washington DC with her Aunt La Crockett at school recovering and catching up from missed schoolwork; the near-constant trouble she was in for sneaking up the steep hill out of the farm across Poplar Road to her best friend/cousin Nancy’s home for a daily visit and to snack on Aunt Bessie French’s mouth-watering buttermilk biscuits; how she rode the mail truck to piano lessons and walked the several miles back home because times were so hard; how she earned money for college by raising a pig to sell; about the time her pigtail got caught in the newfangled electric clothes washing machine; her many cats — so many stories, tied up in the farm.

Sally Lou’s family lived in the farm’s original two-story stone house, and Sally Lou was born in that house. During the Depression her father, Lee, traveled to Alabama to take care of degenerate relatives. He often wrote letters home asking the family to remember him to little Sally Lou. While he was absent, the stone house caught fire and was destroyed. Because the house was stone, it burned relatively slowly. Brother John and farm hands were able to pass many items out the windows, and several furniture items and heirlooms were saved. The family, excluding Sally Lou who went to live with her Aunt Edna and cousins, lived in the red smokehouse while Sally Lou’s then 17 year-old brother John built a new wooden home out of lumber from the farm with the help of another man. Sally Lou lived in that home, embracing all its electrical, plumbing, and construction peculiarities all of her life.

Although unwell himself, Lee was anxious about his family and returned home from Alabama, traveling most of the way on foot. Sally Lou did not recognize her father when he arrived because he was so thin and sick. He was in late stage Bright’s Disease, and died shortly thereafter in the newly built house. Sally Lou grew up looking at her elder brother, John, as a protector and friend and father figure. It would be hard to overstate the adoration Sally Lou had for her jolly, storytelling brother. John taught Sally Lou to drive, let her borrow his fancy car, and managed the farm his entire life. John lived on the farm until he married in his fifties and moved to nearby Fredericksburg with his wife, Mae, driving the 10 miles back to the farm each day. He died in 1986, but rare was the day that Sally Lou did not express how much she missed John and what she’d be willing to give to sit with him on the old stone steps at the back porch while they laughed until they cried at his homespun stories and jokes again.

After John’s death, Sally Lou rented Poplar Grove Farm out to some city slicker cattle ranchers and then to cousin Betty Brown’s fiancé Claude Price, and Ray Humphreys from Hartwood. These men took care of the farm and helped with repairs and maintenance to buildings, tractor, and house. Special friend Bryan Mock looked after the grass cutting and wildlife in exchange for exclusive hunting privileges for many years.

A Bad Dentist’s Visit

During her teenage years, Sally Lou went for a dentist visit that went awry. Shortly thereafter, the bone in her right cheek began deteriorating, resulting in a distinctive sunken area. Though she sometimes felt self-conscious about it, she chose not to have the sunken area repaired by plastic surgery. This striking physical trait turned out to be a blessing as it made Sally Lou easily recognizable throughout her life, helping people remember and recognize her whenever she traveled in public, even many decades after having seen her last.

Early Schooling and Church

Sally Lou rode the bus from the farm to school each day. She was not a gifted student and a notoriously poor speller, but Sally Lou enjoyed school, particularly the annual May Day pole celebration. She remembers her first boyfriend: his mother sent him to school each day with a piece of cake for dessert that he gave to Sally Lou as a love offering. Physically strong throughout her life and naturally athletic, she enjoyed sports activities as well — she was a good basketball player except for all the fouling out.

Early photo of Radford College

After graduation from Falmouth High School in 1947, Sally Lou attended university at Radford College in Radford, Virginia, which at the time was a prim and proper all-women’s school. Radford billed itself as a “Southern gentlewoman’s school” and had long lists of strict rules that Sally Lou loved to describe. She often mentioned how she got around the rules one time by wearing a long coat to cover up her nightgown once when she woke up too late to dress properly. While at Radford, Sally Lou, never a great student, studied business and education. Sally Lou lived in a guesthouse there and limped along enough in her classes to graduate, barely. Her letters to her mother at this time express her constant struggle with coursework and worries about grades. Sally Lou made lifelong friends at Radford that she corresponded with and spoke about throughout her life, like Betty Joyce Finney, and learned ladylike manners that she talked about but mainly ignored thereafter. Sally Lou was earthy but not coarse and exhibited a natural kindness and good nature that made her easy to like wherever she went.

Sally Lou began attending church services while at Radford and was baptized into the Episcopal church in her late teens. Though her father, Lee, had been the son of an episcopalian minister, Sally Lou’s mother, Sallie, was a nondenominational sort of Christian who attended whatever nearby country church was having a picnic dinner after services. Sally Lou herself was never regularly active in the church, but she enjoyed visits from the priest at Aquia Episcopal Church as she became more elderly, and she participated with the church on a travel exchange with their sister congregation in Staffordshire, England. She brought niece-in-law, Carol, and great-nieces, Jenny and Melissa, on that ten-day trip in June 1997.

Aquia Episcopal Church, Virginia is for Lovers website

After graduating from Radford in 1952 with her bachelor’s in education and teaching certificate, Sally Lou took a high-paying job at Fort Belvoir working as a secretary. Her fast typing and shorthand skills won her the job, but she despised her military bosses, thinking them uncouth, and she did not enjoy the long commute. She quit the secretary job after a few months and took a new position working as a schoolteacher in nearby Bristersburg, Virginia, with lower pay, but better quality of life and flexibility. Soon a teaching position opened up in Stafford, where Sally Lou taught in several schools, including at what is now Drew Middle, Stafford High, and North Stafford High Schools. She laughingly remembered teaching seventh grade and helping the uncomfortable boys and nervous girls learn to dance the waltz, and loved to dramatize the angst of pre-teenagers by sharing how she rescued one hysterically sobbing middle schooler from a bathroom only to discover the student was distraught because a boy she liked had held hands with ANOTHER GIRL. Sally thought that was a ridiculous reason about which to become so traumatized.

Cadet Battalion formation in front of VMI Barracks, ca. 1965

During summers and in between trips, Sally Lou took courses at Virginia Polytechnic (now VMI) and with some struggle, was awarded a Master’s Degree in business education in 1966.

Proud Aunt

In December 1947, Sally Lou and her family received a letter from her brother-in-law, Wilburn Moore, describing the frog-like croaking sounds coming from the other room. Sally Lou was the proud aunt of a little baby boy, Davis. Sally knitted Davis a special vest and sewed his favorite toy, a rag doll he named Tar Baby. Davis and Sally shared a special bond, with Sally keeping an eye on Davis during his years at law school at University of Virginia law school. Beginning in the 1990s, Davis called Sally Lou every day to check on her and to share gossip, family stories, and good-natured teasing. When she moved to assisted living in 2021, he watched her on camera to be sure she was safe, even alerting caregivers to falls and other issues he noted from his home in Mississippi.


Also during this time, Sally Lou experienced romance. She was engaged to be married to a man named Joe, but she called off the wedding, having decided she did not want to be tied down to a man. She lived the remainder of her life proudly independent and single. A romantic at heart however, Sally Lou kept all her love letters in a trunk, and later in life as her memory got a little confused even imagined some incidents where she’d seen her ex-beau or where he bought her dinner while eating with a caregiver. Though not conventionally attractive, Sally Lou’s good nature attracted men, and she had many brief encounters with “boyfriends” all the way into her 80s about which nephew Davis and friends teased her good-naturedly. She was naive and slightly absentminded, which resulted in lots of scrapes. She had a special ability to laugh at herself.

Schoolteaching Career

Sally Lou taught for thirty-two years when Stafford County Public Schools made an effort to push out higher paid teachers with Master’s degrees, like herself. Officials took away her classroom and rest period. Forced to teach all of her seven daily classes from a cart, moving from room to room, and exhausted from having recently suffered the devastating deaths of her mother and brother in 1986 just months apart, she decided to retire in 1988.

Sally Lou taught thousands of Stafford students to type in her business classes. Her own struggles with schoolwork and especially spelling made her unusually compassionate when working with students. Rarely did we go out in public with her that someone didn’t stop to tell her/us that our Aunt Sally Lou had been their very favorite teacher.

One memorable event occurred at the time she took the yearbook committee on a field trip in her car — and got a speeding ticket! One of those students was Dottie Truslow whose father was the school principal, much to Sally Lou’s eternal embarrassment. The trauma must not have been too bad for the students, however, as Dottie also became a principal and led Margaret Brent Elementary School where Sally’s great-great-niece Sydney and great-great nephew Caleb attended years later. Dottie tactfully never brought up Sally Lou’s ticket.

Ms. Fitzhugh was my business teacher in 1971. She patiently taught us such practical things as how to write a check and balance the checkbook. It’s so nice to read her backstory. I’m glad she lived life and had the love of family.

Dale Edwards White, Student

I was in that car with Dottie Drew Truslow and Lois Kohler! Lois was my best friend and had gotten me to join the yearbook staff. Ms. Fitzhugh was driving us to UVA for a yearbook conference. Great memories, she was quite a character. I’m sure her family will miss her.

Lynn Dahlgren Embrey, Student

I had Miss Fitzhugh for General Business and I was a student aide for one of her other classes. I’m a 1976 graduate of Stafford High School. Some teachers you remember for a lifetime and she is one of those for me. She was an enjoyable teacher and one I was glad to have gotten.

Debrah Hauger, Student

I had Miss. Fitzhugh for business classes at Stafford High School. She taught us how to do taxes. I think of her every year at tax time! RIP Miss. Fitzhugh 🙏

Debbie Foltz, Student

She was my favorite teacher! She encouraged me and worked with me. She also allowed me to assist her with projects. She was a wonderful teacher, woman and friend. Forever in my heart. I’m sending love and prayers for her family. May God give you comfort in your times if need. RIP Ms. Fitzhugh

Mona Jett, Student

[M]s Fitzhugh was a very sweet lady! A great teacher. Love the memories I have of her!

Anne Vint Garrison, Student

Ms. Fitzhugh was my typing teacher at Stafford High School in the late 1970’s. I just remember how we had to type words that either she recited or from a record WITH THE LIGHTS OFF!
I wish I had known all these wonderful stories about her. She was quite a character.

Helene Bryant Domi, Student

Miss Fitzhugh was an extraordinary woman. She greeted 3 generations of our family during our time in Stafford schools, always with a smile and a hug for the little ones. What a joy it was to know her.

Dawn Kendall, Student

Ms Fitzhugh… is the reason I learned to type on a manual typewriter in Stafford Senior High School as a freshman : )

Crystal Lee Harmon, Student

Ms. Fitzhugh was one of my favorite teachers. I knew nothing of her home life, but feel I know her now through this loving obituary. My sincere condolences to her family.

Joyce Brent, Student

I will always remember the kindness and wisdom she gave me in my most trying times. I’ll never forget the talks we had, her smile, her laugh and how she would take time to uplift and inspire those around her. Rest in peace Sally, you will forever be missed and loved. Thank you for being the best teacher I ever had.

Sonya Leigh (fka Pamela Busby), Student

Sally was my teacher at North Stafford high school. I enjoyed hearing her stories from her farm. Looks like I was her student the very last year she reached, (88). I’ve wondered about how she was doing all these years. I’m sorry to hear of her passing but glad to hear that it sounds like she had a nice long enjoyable life.

Patrick Williams, Student

Ms. Fitzhugh was my teacher in high school. She was an awesome teacher.

Peggy Mitchell Heflin, Student

She was a very sweet person and teacher.

Doris A Williams

She was my business teacher in the late 60s. Enjoyed her classes very much. Was hired by the govt after graduation because of the skills she taught me where I stayed for 40 years. Thank you Ms Fitzhugh, RIP.

Rachel Roles Craft, Student

We would like to share our thoughts and prayers with the family for their loss. Ms. Fitzhugh was my wife, Kim {Hodge}, typing teacher in 1973/1974, and I am a tribal member of the Patawomeck. May you find peace in the memories you enjoyed.

Rick & Kim Knight, Student

More Driving Shenanigans

Sally Lou didn’t learn to drive until she was a college student, and she was never a very good driver. She failed her driving test multiple times, which as it turned out, accurately predicted her lifelong terrible driving. Not only was she a notoriously poor driver, Sally always drove her cars fast, and she got many speeding tickets and was involved in several automobile accidents during her lifetime. Once on a trip with Nancy, Sally was pulled over for speeding, but after bribing the traffic cop with a bag of M&Ms he let the silly, good-tempered old women go without a ticket. Her driving was so infamous we warned people whenever they came to visit. Jared Smith in particular didn’t believe our tales until on his first visit she drove straight into a curb in Washington, DC, at about 35 mph, caught air (!), and Jared’s head actually hit the roof although his seatbelt was buckled. Virginia always told Davis to never drive like Sally Lou.

We consider it evidence of a charmed life that Sally Lou was never seriously hurt in a car accident and never hurt anyone else – well, except for that one deer she sent to meet the Lord.

PBS Super Fan

A Traveling Trick

With Poplar Grove Farm as home base, Sally Lou lived her life on the go, traveling constantly by automobile, jet plane, prop plane, helicopter, rowboat, ocean cruise, river cruise, human-powered conveyance, bungee rope, bicycle, hot air balloon, taxi, rv, roller skate, horse, camel, and elephant to anywhere on the planet that struck her fancy. Using thousands of hours of PBS viewing as inspiration, Sally Lou traveled the world, accidentally visiting men’s bathrooms in practically every airport she ever visited. Among her favorite destinations were China, Alaska, Hawaii, Russia, India, Egypt, and England. She’d visited all fifty states and most countries in the world. In the year 2000, she got into a limousine and left Poplar Grove Farm for a special three-month five-star luxury trip around the world, visiting every continent except Antarctica. The culmination of that trip was a hot air balloon ride over the Serengeti looking at her beloved wild animals. On these many trips, Sally Lou was famous for never operating her giant Sony video camera correctly, and we have enough videotapes of the backs of tour bus seats and women’s shoes to fill a small school bus.


Sally Lou loved videotape recordings, and recorded hours and hours of PBS and news shows. For her great nieces, Jenny Moore (Smith) and Melissa Moore (Stephens), she recorded the Canadian filmed Julian Fellowes’ Anne of Green Gables movies, which started a lifelong obsession with the books by Melissa. We can’t remember without laughing how Aunt Sally Lou became enamored with the OJ Simpson trial in 1994 and recorded every minute of it, even buying a special case to store the precious videocassettes — know anybody at the Smithsonian?

Genealogical Societies and Clubs

Sally Lou was an active, proud member and founding regent of the Overwharton Parish Chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution. She was also a very active member of the United Daughters of the Confederacy, Daughters of the War of 1812, Colonial Dames, Patawomeck Indian Tribe, and Alpha Delta Kappa sorority, serving in a variety of positions in each. She was a president of the Falmouth High School Alumni association and enjoyed attending their meetings with her cousin, Nancy French Cox.

In 2014, Jenny was serving on the board of directors for the Patawomeck Heritage Foundation, and she was involved with ordering wooden coins and history cards to pass out during the 350th anniversary of the founding of Stafford County to people who visited the Tribe’s booth. The Smith family brought family and friends to the parade and celebration, and while setting up the Tribal members invited Sally Lou and family to ride on the float as a tribal elder, even though none of us was wearing regalia. We feared it might be difficult to get Sally Lou on the float with her left weak side, but the Tribe did it gracefully. This float ride was Aunt Sally Lou’s first time to ever participate in a parade, and she loved every minute of it. She can be seen in several images taken of the Tribe’s float (though not in the one below).

Chief Robert Green is standing with his fur hat on with Jared (waving) and Jenny Smith seated behind him Aunt Sally Lou
(obscured) is wearing white next to Jenny

Shortly after Sally Lou attended the last UDC meeting for where our chapter meeting had show and tell, I can’t remember what she brought for show and tell we all discussed having a meeting and picnic at Sally Lou’s house and then never did happen as it was shortly after she had her stroke. I have greatly missed her being able to come to our meetings and she will be greatly missed by all the ladies from all the organizations that she joined.

Marcia Hovenden, Friend

Sally with Family and Friends

Sally Lou’s best friend was her cousin, Nancy French Cox, who lived across the street from Sally Lou. Nancy was Sally Lou’s first cousin and she was just over a year younger, but that didn’t stop the two from being best friends. They played together each day and got many whoopings for sneaking off to be together. Nancy moved away and married, eventually settling in Manassas, where she, too, taught school for many years. As older women, they spoke on the telephone every night sharing news and laughs. The pair acquired season tickets to the Riverside Dinner Theater in Fredericksburg and attended every production from its opening show until Sally’s lack of mobility after her stroke prevented her from being able to attend independently.

On one of my visits with Aunt Sally Lou, I brought my Parchesi board and we played a game. Other visits were to just sit and talk with her. I was fascinated at how she travelled so much, and many times went by herself, until she met up with a group. I wish I had visited more with her more. What an amazing lady.

Betty Dingess, Friend


Motherly and patient by nature and after so many years of school teaching, Sally Lou took care of a wide variety of friends and strays, human and animal alike. These included younger men like her policeman friend Michael Jenkins, tenant David Park, former student Bonnie Plaster, tenet Jean Pearson, friend and housekeeper Lillian Ford, blind farmhand Randolph, and cats and dogs galore — dog Missy and cat Tiger deserve special mention. She bred Siamese cats, and the squalls of those cats along with the cries of her mother’s peacocks meant there was rarely a dull moment at the farm.

Sally Lou traveled to Mississippi each Christmas to share the holiday with her sister, Virginia and Virginia’s Moore family. She always stayed long enough to have a sleepover with Jenny, Melissa, Wil, and John each in turn. We loved that Sally Lou would let us eat sugar cereal in the morning with orange juice(!) and she’d take us shopping to get a special gift. Each Christmas Eve, Virginia and Sally Lou would host a fancy dinner served on family china that too often for our taste included duck, and afterwards we would go excitedly to the breezeway where the tree was set up with our gifts from grandma and Aunt Sally Lou underneath. These visits were a highlight of our holiday.

Also in the 1990s, Sally Lou took over caregiving responsibilities for her Aunt Lula (La) Crockett, who, like her, did not have children. La had moved herself into an apartment with assisted living and skilled nursing facilities in Alexandria, and Sally Lou traveled there at least weekly to check on La. She had more and more responsibility handling La’s large estate until taking it over completely at La’s passing in 1997 at age 99.

In 1997, John Moore visited Virginia with his Boy Scout troop. Sally Lou always said she about died walking miles and miles with 35,000 scouts to see then-President Clinton address the Scouts.

Family meals were a tradition Sally Lou kept throughout her life, gathering with Betty Brown, Claude Price, Heather Brown, Tony Brown, Nicole Brown, Ella Brown, Jenny Smith(me), Jared Smith, Caleb Smith, and Sydney Jo Smith plus various neighbors and friends like JoAnn and Lee, Bunny, Andra, and Gail each Christmas and Thanksgiving to share a meal and visit. She scheduled an evening meal for every family birthday to make her mother’s famous fried chicken, birthday cake with candles, and the traditional, somehow perpetually burned, biscuits. Even after her stroke, Sally kept up this tradition and directed her caregivers as they made the chicken and cakes for birthday meals and her specialty: garlicky deviled eggs for family dinners.

Sally Lou loved to hear the news on her Stephens great-great-nieces in Houston, Mary, Diana, Sarah, and Laura, and she proudly displayed their photos and artwork where she could see them daily.

The Smiths Invade

In between trips, life passed along quietly at the farm until July 2006 when it was unceremoniously invaded by the Smith family, Jared, Jenny (me), Caleb, and Sydney Jo. After a period of unemployment, the family decided to move to Virginia where jobs were steadier and higher paying than in Utah. We planned to build a home on Poplar Grove Farm. Bureaucratic posturing and red tape hindered progress, but Sally Lou moved heaven and earth for us, even accompanying me to the county planning commission offices where she tearfully demanded the county make exceptions to its family subdivision rules for us, her closest relatives. They didn’t make the change, but they did bend over backward to help us through the subdivision creation process, and finally our home was completed on the hill near the front gate to the farm in 2007.

Sally Lou, youngest child in her family living quietly alone on the farm for over a decade, had her life turned upside down when the Smiths arrived. Sally Lou, ever patient, tolerated the Smith children’s noisy invasion with aplomb. She took care to introduce Caleb and Sydney to many cultural activities, including visits to Monticello, her beloved Riverside Dinner Theater, national and international Fitzhugh family reunions, genealogy group events, and activity in the Patawomeck Indian tribe. She participated with the children during Stafford County’s 350th anniversary celebration in 2014 by riding on the tribe’s parade float — at age 83, it was her very first time participating in a parade. She attended their school activities, concerts, and plays, and she especially enjoyed watching Sydney develop a talent for drama. Sally Lou was the first to recognize her natural ability when during a kindergarten play, she saw Sydney play both the main role in the play and take on a secondary role last minute when that student fell ill and was absent.

Sally Lou continued looking after the children, and her home became a secret escape for Smith children looking to get out of housework. Sydney learned no one would tell her no if she asked to visit Aunt Sally Lou, and when it looked like she might get assigned work Sydney would ask to walk down the hill for a visit where Sally Lou would always make Sydney a delicious tuna fish sandwich — the taste of FREEDOM! Caleb loved to play on Aunt Sally Lou’s electronics. Her WebTV and iPad were big attractions. He spent many hours helping her learn to use the latest technology, like her cell phone. During a trip to England, Caleb shared a room with Aunt Sally Lou and somehow racked up several hundred dollars in internet fees playing games on the in-room television — the two had many technology adventures together. Despite her age, Sally Lou never feared technology and even embraced it. She even took classes in her 80s to learn to use her computer and how to send emails to far-flung family and friends, including friend Marjorie Morse.

Sally’s Stroke

In 2013, Sally Lou had another life-changing permanent effect from a dentist’s visit. She got a toothache and was prescribed a strong antibiotic, which triggered a bout of shingles that affected the nerves in her right eye and right side of her face. Sally Lou suffered several weeks with painful shingles, and just as she was about to be well enough to drive again, suffered a massive stroke in the nerves affected by the shingles. The stroke left Sally Lou with a paralyzed left arm, weak left leg, and serious left side neglect. After many months of intensive rehab and a bathroom overhaul, she was able to move home with in-home caregiving staff that took fantastic care of her for nine years, including Maria Amaro, Evelyn Ford, Mim Kala, Nelly Lizama, April Lamb, Sharon Wehle, Sharon Robinson, Liz Jaxel, Elizabeth Gaspar, Ayden Furness, Courtney Dingess, great-neice Sydney, and others.

Due to left side neglect, Sally Lou was unable to complete the crossword puzzle every day as she had for most of her adult life. She’d always been able to follow the news and could discuss current events until the last few years of her life when the stroke began to affect her processing. Although she’d been a business teacher and was very adept at working with numbers and accounting, during the last three years of her life she was no longer able to write checks because regardless of what letter she spoke or was told, she’d write something different. Her thinking was remarkably clear despite these impediments, and she remained able to sign her name legibly, like a good school teacher, until the end of her life.

The stroke didn’t keep Sally down too much initially, and in addition to the parade in 2014, she traveled with us on a cruise from Florida to Mexico in 2015, on a surprise car trip to Mississippi to celebrate Davis’ 70th birthday in 2017, a visit to Myrtle Beach with Mim, a trip to Philadelphia to visit the LDS temple, and flew with us to Houston for Carol’s 70th birthday in 2019 at Melissa’s home. She experienced a broken hip, kidney troubles, and some mini-strokes along the way, but Sally Lou stayed remarkably healthy and thinking well through it all.

The 2020 Covid-19 pandemic was a stressful time for everyone. Sally’s caregivers worked very hard to keep the house clean and sterilized, and they wore gloves whenever they could, but due to shortages of masks and gloves, we were unable to get this equipment for them consistently. Friends in the area donated supplies, and Betty made cloth masks for us all. During this time, caregivers got covid or were exposed, and it became very difficult to keep shifts covered. We paid caregivers to stay away when unwell, and Sydney and I and the others took as many shifts as we could.

Jared and I had been volunteers to receive the test vaccine in October 2020, but only I received the vaccine and Jared received the placebo. This gave me some reprieve from worrying that I might infect Aunt Sally Lou with Covid, but we still worried about Jared. In December 2020, Stafford County received its first doses of the vaccine. Because we had registered as a health care facility in the county, we were able to get a special link to the department of health that allowed us to register our caregivers for vaccinations before the general public. Even Aunt Sally Lou herself wasn’t eligible for the vaccine yet. We

Move to Charter

For eight years Sally lived at home with her caregivers offering more and more care as her body weakened. Pandemic work shortages affected our ability to hire enough help to cover all of the shifts for the 24/7 support Sally Lou needed. In late fall 2021 daddy and I visited several facilities with Aunt Sally Lou, and she picked one where she would live out the rest of her life — noting it was the only location we visited where the residents were smiling.

For the last year of her life, Sally Lou lived at Charter Assisted Living just 10 miles from the farm. Sally’s first few months at Charter were marred by the Covid-19 pandemic, when there was an outbreak in the facility. This unfortunate development meant Sally Lou was unable to have visitors, and her meals were served in her room, which kept her from meeting people in the building the first few months after she arrived.

In order to keep some semblance of her old schedule in tact, we kept one caregiver, Marinely Lizama, who would pick up Aunt Sally Lou in Sally’s Toyota Avalon and drive her to the farm each Friday to visit Tiger and check on the place. Sometimes they’d do a little shopping at Walmart or the pharmacy, and even get an ice cream cone at MacDonald’s. Occasionally they’d spend the night in one of the bedrooms when Aunt Sally Lou felt she needed a little vacation from Charter, but always they’d stop to get Kentucky Fried Chicken on the way home.

She had been diagnosed with breast cancer shortly before moving to Charter. She didn’t want any radical treatment, pills were tried unsuccessfully, and as the cancer weakened her strong frame she lost quite a bit of weight. She entered hospice in October 2022. On November 23, 2022, Sally Lou suffered another massive stroke. She stayed in her apartment with Jenny at her side and remained alert and responsive until just three hours before her passing. Though unable to speak, Aunt Sally Lou could smile and hold hands with family members who visited including Betty Brown, Nicole Brown, Ella Brown, Heather Brown, Davis Moore, Jenny Smith, Jared Smith, and John Moore, and longtime caregiver Marinely Lizama. Sally Lou left this world peacefully at 1:05pm on November 28, 2022, Davis holding one hand and Jenny the other.