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Sharon Bartlett: Remembering Elizabeth, thanking community

By Sharon Bartlett

Dear Charleston Community,

By now most of you have probably read the three-part series written by Douglas Imbrogno in the Gazette-Mail (starting June 2). This was about the life of your street person, Elizabeth and her life during, before and after Charleston.

Our family is deeply saddened by the passing of our beloved Elizabeth who journeyed to heaven on Feb. 7. Elizabeth was missing from our family for 27 years. Being the free spirit that she was, she traveled the country by foot, bus or anyway she could, to get from place to place for several years. She found your beautiful community, where we understand she chose to settle for approximately 10 years. She must have felt a special bond with your community to have settled there for so long.

She walked your streets, sat on your curbs and played her music. She frequented your establishments and accepted your generosity with gratitude. There were some who were fearful and would not venture too close. The ones who overcame their fear were the ones that gained the most. You see, they saw Elizabeth's heart and her kind, giving spirit. If she knew she could trust you, then you had a friend for life.

She endured much in her lifetime. Probably more than anyone should have to bear. We prayed that God would place compassionate, kind and caring people on her paths as she made her life's journey. Our prayers were answered and we are grateful to your community for being there for her.

In 2009, we received a phone call from Elizabeth that changed our lives forever. The kind staff at Covenant House arranged for us to meet, and so our family's journey began. What joy we felt to see her walking down that corridor and into our loving arms! Such an awesome experience! One that will never be forgotten. We walked with her that day on the streets of the city. She introduced us to her friends and took us to the places she enjoyed frequenting the most. She seemed so thrilled to be able to introduce her family to all she knew! We felt such pride to be right there along with her.

Elizabeth eventually made her way back to her family in Arkansas and ended up settling in Tulsa, Okla., where her sister cared for her and made sure her needs were supplied. She had an apartment and became content in her surroundings. She became quite ill with pneumonia after Thanksgiving and was admitted to the hospital for seven days. While there, additional health issues became evident. They discovered a mass on one of her lungs and multiple blood clots on the other lung. After she returned home, her health continued to deteriorate and ultimately caused her to pass away. She received hospice care in her home, then was transported to Clarehouse, which is a beautiful hospice facility on a plantation where she spent her last days. She was surrounded by family and was able to die with dignity and grace. We are grateful for these past three years to have had her back in our life. The best years of our life!

Elizabeth was born George L. Bartlett on Nov. 20, 1953 to James L. Bartlett and Fern Rigdon Bartlett. Her father, James Bartlett, preceded her in death in 2006. Survivors include mother Fern Rigdon Bartlett; sisters Sharon Bartlett, Leigh Ann Keller (Troy) and Lisa Marie Davis (Kevin); nieces Amanda and Sarah; and nephew Skylar. She is also survived by eight aunts, all 83 years and older! There are many prayer warriors in our family and we feel they were instrumental in Elizabeth's return to her family after 27 years.

We thank Jaime Morris from Capitol Roasters who shared such sweet stories that day about Elizabeth -- one in particular, of the times she would grill her steaks in the back alley and the aroma would radiate through the coffee shop. Thank you to all who shared their stories and comments on the media sites. They warmed our hearts, touched us and helped to heal our broken hearts.

Special thanks to the staff at Covenant House, Briana Martin, Phil Hainen, Crystal Good and Amy Weintraub. And, of course, Elizabeth's personal friends and benefactors Leslie Clay and Carl Agsten Jr. If it had not been for all of your combined efforts, we might not have been able to experience such joy of having Elizabeth back in our lives those past few years. Special thanks to Douglas Imbrogno. We appreciate his taking the time away from his family and the late night hours he must have spent to complete this amazing story of George and Elizabeth. We hope it has been inspiring to many. We will always hold a special place in our hearts for all of you.

Videos about George Bartlett, "What Faith Can Do" and "Angel by Your Side," are on YouTube.com. The Gazette-Mail story about Elizabeth is at http://www.wvgazette.com/News/201306010016.

Bartlett, of North Little Rock, Ark., sent this message on behalf of the family of Leah Elizabeth Wingfield.


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