Published 12:00 am Friday, November 25, 2011
In memory of Rose Post, who died Oct. 20, the Salisbury Post is reprinting some of the stories from her 56-year career with the paper. This story originally appeared in the Post on Nov. 27, 1986.
GRANITE QUARRY — Every Thanksgiving the prayer is simple. And the same.
“We thank thee, Lord, for all of us being together and for being spared to see another Thanksgiving,” Tillie Beatty will say today, as she and her husband, Frazier, say every year, after they gather in the dining room and before they dig into the turkey and dressing and candied yams and spread out to find a good eating spot in the stone house on top of the hill.
Just a simple prayer of thanksgiving for food and drink for the nourishment of their bodies and the strength of their souls — and for being together another year.
But in another home at another table, Linda Benge, director of Nazareth Children’s Home, will thank the Lord for Tillie and Frazier and all the other families who trim turkey with love on Thanksgiving, the families who are always there when they get a call from Nazareth and someone says, “We’ve got an emergency. There’s one more child who needs a place for the holidays.”
Tillie almost got a call like that this year. The 38 children were almost all assigned and knew exactly where they were going to have their Thanksgiving dinner when one little girl went to Linda.
“Please,” she whispered. “I’d rather not spend Thanksgiving with my mama.” There would be men there, she said. Strange men. And liquor. She’d rather stay at Nazareth, even if all the other children had some place else to go.
Linda found a place for her, as she has for many children through the years. Though she didn’t need to call her this time, that place has often been with Tillie Beatty, who has been a Nazareth sponsor for more years than either she or Linda remember.
“She’s a jewel,” Linda says.
“She just loves kids,” Frazier adds, grinning himself. “I can’t understand, as many kids as she had, why she wants to go out and get everybody else’s kid. But she does.”
Just how many has she had?
“I always tell people I have six,” she says, though she only gave birth to four — Theola and Linda and Larry and Frazier Jr. But then they adopted Ronald. And Larry adopted them. And that’s six, not counting all the others.
Tillie doesn’t really understand why she loves children so.
“I just enjoy seeing ’em happy,” she says. “Anybody who knows me will tell you the more children I had around the merrier I was.”
Maybe it’s because she was adopted herself. Her parents had only one son of their own, but raised five children. “I was so happy,” she says. “Some of that must have rubbed off on me. Maybe it was handed down through the generations.”
Or maybe it’s that rock house on the hill, with its big yard and enormous boulders that beg children to climb and the swings and the barbecue grills and big oak trees that always offer playing shade.
“The Lord blessed us to get this house while we were young,” she says. Childhood sweethearts, she and Frazier were both still in their teens when they were married 43 years ago. They built the house two years later and it grew as their family grew. But then the family was grown and the house was there and they had room to share.
Ronald used some of it.
“My husband used to have a little ice cream bar and Ronald always used to stay there, helping my husband, and one day he came up here and helped me,” she remembers. And did she enjoy having him!
“So one day I said, ‘I need a little boy like you,’ and he said, ‘Yes, ma’am.’ His mother lived just up the path, and you know that little bugger went home and asked his mama, and here he come back with his little bag of clothes.”
She couldn’t just keep someone else’s child like that, but she could talk to his mother. She did, and the next thing she knew she and Frazier were adopting Ronald, who became their fifth child.
So she knew how much she enjoyed children and she was receptive when a women at White Rock AME Zion Church mentioned Nazareth and its need for sponsors.
“I was talking to her one day, and she told me about the children there, and she said, ‘Tillie, wouldn’t you enjoy having them come?’ So I decided to try. And I just got started, just like that, and had them come on weekends and holidays and vacation week at Cannon Mill.”
First she had Jo Ann and Clayton for Christmas. Her son played Santa Claus, and when they’d opened all their gifts, she remembers, “they got up and hugged me and said, ‘Mrs. Beatty, this is the best Christmas we ever had.’ I’m a crybaby, and I just cried, and after that, as long as I was able, I tried to have them here at Christmas.”
“I’d load up my car,” she says, “and wherever we went, they went with us.”
The Nazareth children opened the door for foster children, and Tillie ticks off the names — LeMando, Dale, Danny, Larry, Jerome, all at one time, and of course, there were the grandchildren and the grandchildren’s friends.
They all call her Mom, and she glories in the sound.
“But I had to give up all my boys,” she says, “when my health began to fail.” Now suffering with angina and high blood pressure, she keeps it down to ones and twos on weekends and Thanksgiving and enjoys the memories of the little boy who told her he was going to grow up and get himself a job and buy her a dishwasher.
Then there’s the wonderful story of Larry, the boy who adopted her.
“He was almost 16 when he came, and he could drive. My husband didn’t drive,” she remembers, so he decided he was essential and should be part of the family.
“He started right off calling me Mom,” she says. “He’d been here about a month when he said, “Mom, why don’t you adopt me?’ I told him, ‘I don’t need to spend no money to adopt you. You’re already my boy.’ And then he said, ‘Well, if you won’t adopt me, I’m going to adopt you,’ and when I gave up foster children, he wouldn’t leave. He didn’t leave until he went in the Air Force.”
The main thing about children is loving them and enjoying them, she says, “and sitting down and getting an understanding with them. You have to explain what they can do and what they can’t do. I tell the children, ‘Sit down and tell me what the problem is. I always have a listening ear. I may not like what I hear, but I’ve got enough love to spread around.’ They try you sometimes — but thank the Lord for them and live right and do right so you set a good example.”
She points to a 3-year-old, asleep on the sofa in front of the fire in her den. “I’m still raising children,” she says.
The main thing about Tillie is that, even with her health problems, she’s always ready for another child from Nazareth, says Linda.
Right now that’s 10-year-old Mark. He went home with her after school yesterday, as he has done many times before, and he’ll help Tillie and Frazier welcome the rest of the family coming in for Thanksgiving today.
That gives a boy a feeling of family, Linda says, which is why Nazareth wants sponsors so much.
Just the personal contact, she says, means so much to the children. “Around Christmastime, a lot of people call in, but people want younger children. Our youngest is 9 years old.” They go up to 19, but the need to be part of a bit of normal family life is no different than it is for the very young.
Nazareth tries to place the children in homes for Easter, July Fourth, Thanksgiving and Christmas and for one weekend a month when there is no holiday. “But,” she says, “it’s not easy. It’s definitely not easy because of their ages. When I first came to work here 16 years ago, there were more younger children and that was easier.”
But from the very beginning, she says, she could always give Tillie a call.
“If she couldn’t taken them, and that was rare, she’d get on the phone and within the hour she had a home,” Linda says. “But usually she took them herself.” And on Thanksgiving, she adds, Nazareth is thankful for the Tillies of the world.
Frazier Beatty died in 2002. Tillie Beatty died in January of this year.