Flossie Y. Jefferson, 92, public health, school nurse

February 01, 2002|By Frederick N. Rasmussen | Frederick N. Rasmussen,SUN STAFF

Services for Flossie Y. Jefferson, a retired registered nurse and granddaughter of slaves whose life was defined by helping others, will be held at noon tomorrow at Nutter Funeral Home, 2501 Gwynns Falls Parkway.

Mrs. Jefferson, who was 92 and had lived in Windsor Hills for more than three decades, died of heart failure Jan. 24 at Howard County General Hospital.

In the late 1930s, Mrs. Jefferson began her nursing career in Washington at Freedman's Hospital, which dated to the Civil War. Later, she was a public health and school nurse in Washington, retiring in the late 1960s.

Born Flossie Young, she was the eldest of 14 children, raised on her sharecropper father's 40-acre farm in Courtland, Va.

It was the dream of Mrs. Jefferson's parents, who had limited education, that their children attend high school and college. Eight earned bachelor's degrees, and the others graduated from trade or business schools.

Her parents sold chickens and beef, raised extra crops and borrowed money to pay for her tuition. They could afford to buy her only several new dollar dresses.

"They told her to carry herself as a queen even though she was wearing a print dress, that she could walk with kings," said a sister, LaVerne Y. Kelly of Columbia, a retired Baltimore public school music teacher. "And never lose the common touch."

Mrs. Jefferson earned her bachelor's degree in nursing from St. Philip, the segregated division of the Medical College of Virginia in Richmond.

The family's story was recounted in The Negro Digest, Farm Journal and Reader's Digest, and became a nationally broadcast radio drama, Sixteen Sticks in a Bundle, starring Ethel Waters as the mother and Jester Hairston as the father. It aired on NBC as part of the Cavalcade of America show in 1952.

Throughout her life, Mrs. Jefferson embodied her family's values of a deep religious faith and helping those in need.

"She had no children of her own but became a surrogate parent to children in her neighborhood. She encouraged, helped and inspired people wherever she went," Mrs. Kelly said.

She was an active member of Forest Park Reformed Presbyterian Church on Garrison Boulevard.

Her brief marriage to Dr. Donald Harper ended in divorce. In 1963, she married Robert W. Jefferson, a career Army officer who died in 1974.

Mrs. Jefferson is survived by a brother, James E. Young of Landover; two other sisters, Bernice Brown of Sedley, Va., and Joyce Y. Bowman of Washington; and many nephews and nieces.

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