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Helen Ruth Doolittle's Biography

By Norma Jean (Wright) Almodovar AND John Stephen Wright (Edited by N.J. Almodovar)

Helen Ruth Doolittle was born March 4, 1921 in Sidney, New York to Mark Arthur Doolittle and Clara Louise (Chauncey) Doolittle. She grew up in a small town with one brother and three sisters. She attended Oneonta State Teacher’s College in Oneonta, NY and became a school teacher in a one room schoolhouse. In 1942, she met Harold Marvin Wright, who was hitchhiking (WHERE WAS HE GOING? DO WE KNOW?), and they were married December 24, 1942 in Greensboro, North Carolina.

Two years later, in 1944, she bore her first child- a son. Douglas Alan Wright was the first of the fourteen living children born to Helen and Harold Wright. In 1967, her last child was born- it was a girl, bringing the daughter count to 6 and her son count to 8. There were 2 children who were stillborn. All the children were born while the growing family lived at 517 Chenango Street, but after the youngest was born, the family moved to 19 Moffatt Avenue in Binghamton, NY. which the family called home until they were all grown and living on their own. All the siblings and respective spouses were reunited only twice more at 19 Moffatt Ave, once in 1986 at our father's funeral, and in 1990 when we had our only family reunion.

Mom continued to live in the family residence at 19 Moffatt Ave until she moved in with John in 1992, who lived with his daughter Whitney at 526 Chenango Street (which was ironically the old office and residence of Doctor Sobel, the family doctor who had delivered all her children and patched up their many scrapes and wounds throughout the years). Later they moved to 509 Chenango Street, which was the last Binghamton address she would have.

Looking back through the years she lived with John and Whitney, and observing the changes in her behavior, John believes that these changes started right after her knee surgery in Early 2002. She became very paranoid and accused him and Whitney of doing all sorts of evil things. The problem came to a head when she called 911 in the middle of the night in April of 2002 right after she got home from the hospital and told the stunned paramedics that her son was trying to poison her and only her son Ken could calm her down.

So in 2002, the family decided that she was in need of more care than John could provide, and reluctantly a decision was made to put her in a nursing home in Northern California, near her oldest son Doug. It was very difficult for her to adjust to living with strangers, even though Doug came to visit her every day and occasionally her other children were able to visit her.

Her heart wrenching phone calls to her son Tim made everyone rethink the nursing home idea and in 2003, on the cusp of Hurricane Isabel, Tim brought her back to live with him in Norfolk, Virginia. This was her last stop on this earth. Mom’s mental deterioration continued and she began accusing her children in Norfolk of doing things to her to cause her physical discomfort. Everyone knew it wasn’t true but Mom insisted that it was.

She spent her days doing lots and lots of crossword puzzles, circle-a-words(and according to Nikki, looking at the answers), and waiting for the phone calls from her children who didn’t live in Norfolk. In particular, youngest son Joe and oldest daughter Norma Jean called her on a daily basis- usually several times a day. The family members who lived in Norfolk took turns caring for her, making her meals (which consisted of the same thing every day) and giving her a weekly bath( Mary being her favorite bath giver...)

It was one of the daily phone calls from Norma Jean that allowed us to have the opportunity to say goodbye to her, and her to us. On Saturday morning, July 26th, Norma Jean called John because Mom did not answer the phone after numerous attempts to reach her. Mom had been known on more than one occasion to put the phone in her walker and hit the button so it would not ring. Unfortunately, this was not one of those times.

John found her on the floor in her room with her arm raised reaching toward him. He asked her what happened, but she was not able to speak. He called to Mary and Whitney who were outside by the pool to help him get her into bed. They managed to get her up and put her in bed, but she was still not coherent. She responded as best she could when John asked her again what happened, and she said she fell. They called 911 (which was one of Mom's favorite numbers when she needed a bath or her meal was late) and the Fire Medics came and took her to Bon Secour Hospital Emergency room.

The doctors diagnosed her as having had a Hemoragic Stroke and said she was bleeding deep in her brain, so deep that it was impossible to stop the bleeding. There was nothing more they could do for her.

She was admitted to the hospital and the family members who lived in Norfolk took turns staying with her 24 hours a day, including her grandson Matt and his wife Maria (and their daughter Trinity). Despite having no life support (no food or water) Mom held on for five days, until the wee hours of Thursday morning, July 31, 2008.

During that time, John brought his laptop to the hospital and with a wi-fi internet connection, allowed those siblings who lived far away and were not able to come to Norfolk the opportunity to say goodbye to her as well. Thank goodness for technology and Skype!

Mom responded to us with winks and a couple of smiles, and she squeezed our hands when we talked to her. We knew she was in a great deal of pain, although she was given morphine on a regular basis. Still she clung to life.

On Tuesday, when Ruth was supposed be there, Mom started slipping away. But when the family told her that Ruth missed her connecting flight to Norfolk and was stuck in New York overnight, she started to improve. She held on another day, waiting for Ruth to get there. Virginia started singing to her all Mom's favorite hymns. Mom responded by trying to sing along and tapping her toes. At one point she had some tears running down her face. We knew she heard the songs and they appeared to comfort her.

On Wednesday, July 30th, her last day with us, her children and grandchildren Tim, Virginia, Joe, Mary, Esther, Nicole, John, Whitney, Tommy, Matt, Maria, Little Matthew, Ruth, Ken, Jake, Wanda, and Becky were all with her before she passed. As midnight approached, Tim and John and others left to get some sleep.

Mary, Ruth, Virginia, Esther and Heather remained, choosing to spend the night with her. According to them, at about 12:50 am, they asked the nurse to check on her. Mom took her last breath at about that time, and the phone rang. Three times. Esther answered it and said there was no one there. She let us know she had reached her destination.

Helen Ruth Doolittle Wright- our beloved mother, grandmother and great grandmother was buried at the Greenlawn Cemetery in Bainbridge, New York, next to her husband Harold Marvin Wright on August 7th, 2008. The Cemetery also holds her parents and other of our ancestors.

Between the two of them, they turned out quite a family! Just goes to show you what happens when you stop to pick up a hitchhiker!

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