Wednesday, February 12, 2003
I knew Dr. Josie Rogers; she wanted to be my adoptive mother
By J. NINA MCKINNON KELLY
This country was in the clutches of the Great Depression. "Going to look for work," my father said. He never returned, deserting his family.
It was now the sole responsibility of my mother to care for the five children still at home. I was the youngest, barely past my first birthday. At times, she must have appeared like the Old Woman in the Shoe. My mother, however, did know what to do and did it.
Born of hardy Scottish and Cherokee heritage, she was resourceful, patient, logical. She accepted work as a housekeeper six days a week for $6 and was happy to get it. She cultivated a large vegetable garden in the back yard of our small rented cottage on North Street (in Daytona Beach) a few houses west of the Flippo Ice House. In your own container, skim milk was 10 cents a gallon at Foremost Dairies. Bell Bakeries on Volusia Avenue sold day-old bread, six loaves for a quarter. Bulk peanut butter was 20 cents a pound and soup bones were free at the grocer. Two pet Muscovy ducks supplied us eggs for cooking. Neighbors shared bountiful catches of fish from the Halifax River.
The older children looked after the younger ones. We thrived -- until tragedy struck.
Carrie, my then-13-year-old sister, became afflicted with a crippling disease. A few months later I came down with rheumatic fever.
Dr. Josie Rogers was instrumental in getting us both into the Halifax Hospital for the care we needed. Mother worked all day and sat with us all night. Eventually I was discharged. Carrie remained in the hospital for a year, then was sent home. The prognosis: "She will not live; keep her happy until ..."
Dr. Rogers would not give up. She had hope and other ideas. She kept trying. Through her efforts an exam was arranged with a well-known bone specialist who immediately placed Carrie in a special hospital for crippled children, sponsored by the Elks. Sixteen months later, she was released under Dr. Rogers' care to continue recovery at home.
Mother needed to be a stay-at-home mom now more than ever. She managed to do so by taking in laundry. She did it all by hand, in three large metal tubs with a large brass washboard.
Dr. Rogers monitored special diets for Carrie and me. She also arranged, through the local police, transportation to the beach for sun and saltwater therapy. We felt so important riding in that patrol car 'cross town.
But the hard work and stress began to take its toll on my mother. By then I was 8 years old. Dr. Rogers invited me to attend a mother-daughter banquet with her. Knowing I did not have appropriate clothing, she bought me a lovely white dress and patent leather shoes. On returning home that evening we found mother still toiling over her ironing board, pathetically tired. This prompted Dr. Rogers to ask most seriously, "Mrs. McKin non, would you consider allowing me to adopt Nina?"
This was the first time I had ever seen my mother cry. Too choked up to speak, she just shook her head, NO! Apparently, she considered her sacrifices small if she could keep her family together.
I often wonder how my life might have been had I become J. Nina Rogers. Carrie, despite the loss of one leg to osteomylitis, went on to become a beautician, celebrated more than 50 years of married happiness, had a small family of her own and lived past 80. My sister Maxine and I are the only two left of the family.
We often speak of the time when a very special woman doctor came to our rescue, helping for years a bereft family. Dr. Rogers was the epitome of altruism, compassion and dedication to her profession as a physician. I am proud to say this fine person was part of my life.
Kelly lives in Gainesville, Ga. Josie Rogers, a daughter of one of Daytona Beach's founders, was the first female doctor to practice in the city and the only woman to serve as its mayor.