Mother who saw son graduate early passes away

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, April 4, 2012

By Emily Ford
SALISBURY — Harriet Pinkston, the terminally ill woman whose last wish was to watch her son graduate from high school, has died.
Pinkston, 55, passed away Tuesday at Rowan Regional Medical Center. She died peacefully, surrounded by her five siblings, said sister Cathy Faucette.
Husband Steve Pinkston was at his wife’s side, holding her hand. Son Jesse Pinkston, 17, had visited his mother shortly before she died.
“Harriet was the most giving person that I’ve ever known,” Steve said Tuesday night. “It was always about everyone else and never about her.”
Family and friends worked with Rowan Regional and North Rowan High School to arrange an early graduation ceremony March 26 in the hospital chapel.
Harriet, who could not speak and relied on a ventilator to breathe, attended the ceremony in a special hospital chair with a nurse and respiratory therapist at her side.
Dressed in a cap and gown, Jesse received a ceremonial diploma from North Rowan Principal Darrell McDowell. The chapel was filled to overflowing with relatives, friends and hospital staff.
“It meant so much to see that happen,” Steve said. “She was very emotional about it.”
Harriet had suffered a bewildering array of health problems her entire adult life, including numerous surgeries and cardiac and pulmonary issues. She had only one working lung and even underwent emergency surgery while pregnant with Jesse.
She had been resuscitated three times after her heart stopped.
Although she was not expected to survive her most recent surgery on Jan. 29, Harriet once again defied the odds and lived to see Jesse’s graduation ceremony.
Her surgeon told the family he’d never seen anyone with a greater will to live.
“Rest in peace, my dear sister, Harriet. You fought a hard battle and now your race is run,” Faucette posted on her Facebook page. “Thanks for the legacy you left to your family. We miss you greatly. You will forever be in our hearts.”
A secretary for Landmark Church, Harriet was hospitalized at Rowan Regional Jan. 2 and spent several weeks at Forsyth Medical Center. When doctors there determined her condition was incurable, Harriet returned to Rowan Regional at her request.
Dr. Amy Wilson was her physician for eight years.
“I can’t thank Dr. Wilson and the team at Rowan Regional enough for their efforts and their compassion,” Steve said.
Harriet relished large family gatherings for holidays and birthdays, when as many as 30 members of both her family and Steve’s would gather to celebrate. Both grew up in Salisbury.
Family traditions, including an annual trip to Ocean Isle, will continue, Steve said.
“Other than being with our son, her favorite thing to do in life was walking on the beach,” he said.
During Harriet’s hospitalization, Steve stayed by her side nearly 18 hours a day.
“As much time as I could,” he said, calling Harriet his best friend.
Harriet and Steve would have celebrated their 37th anniversary in September.
Funeral arrangements are pending with Summersett Funeral Home.
Contact reporter Emily Ford at 704-797-4264.