Part of the GAGenWeb Project

Part of the GAGenWeb Project.


Contributed by Robert Latimer Hurst.

No One, She Felt, Should Do Without Those Basic Necessities Of Life

By Robert Latimer Hurst

Mrs. Del Salisbury, the former Stella Walker, even as the police questioned her, had to be boosted by thoughts of the multitudes who realized the worth of her efforts and the accomplishments she had made as Waycross' first welfare director. She had stated in 1973 to the former Journal-Herald Women's Editor Mittie Vaughan that she wished she was still on the job, even after 32 years of service: "They didn't have a welfare department then. This was before it was ever started."

Two years later, in October, 1975, many would eulogize this woman for her good deeds in her community as she was laid to her final rest to the hymns of “Amazing Grace” and “In the Garden.” But, now, she was being interrogated about someone who had broken into her house and beat her. An officer, pointing out that the entrance to Mrs. Salisbury’s house had been gained through a front porch window, stated her assailant left through the front door. No theft or motive for this outrage was recorded, but the victim, though beaten and in pain, did put up a fight, as was her fashion for all obstacles in her life. 

“Waycrossan Hospitalized” headed the short article in the Waycross Journal-Herald. The 90-year-old Mrs. Salisbury was checked into the hospital because of her injuries, it was reported, adding that she is listed in fair condition. “Why would anyone break into my house and attack, choke and beat me?” she had to wonder.

A believer in strict discipline and structure in all actions, Stella Walker Salisbury, the daughter of Dr. and Mrs. (Emma West) Walker, held firmly to a philosophy that is found in a poem entitled “The Clock of Life.” A verse, that many of her associates and “former students” will surely remember, points to a message for living: “The Clock of Life is wound by once, And no man has the power To tell just when the hands will stop, At late or early hour. Now is the only time you own, Live, love, toil, with a will, Place no faith in tomorrow for The clock may then be still....”

She had retired in 1962 and was now at Riverside Nursing Home after the near-tragedy caused by the break-in of her home. It had been during this period of leaving her lifelong career when Mayor Claude Adams spoke of this lady as one who gave “personal care and concern for the underprivileged and needy of the city.” He cited her as a counselor of young girls, and recognized the benefits and blessings these sessions have created.

Christmas baskets became a special project for Mrs. Salisbury. No needy family should be without during this period especially, and she personally asked aid from the community so that all in her charge would have something for the holidays. Her requests of Philanthropists M. M. Monroe and R. L. Walker, among others, brought good results, and she classed these gentlemen as “some of her best friends.” But she wanted to make sure all were served so she, personally, delivered toys repaired by the YMCA to those in need.

The young girls became her special consideration. Earlier, in the 1930s, she had organized the King Daughter’s Children’s Home in the facility that was once the King Daughter’s Hospital on Brunel Street in Waycross. Converting the huge white-columned building into a space for homeless children was not an easy task. Even though she was an active member of the executive committee of the King Daughter’s Convention being hosted in Waycross during this time, Mrs. Salisbury found barriers that she had to overcome in order to fulfill this goal. Charity and donations were the chief supports for this effort; however, with the Great Depression of the 1930s, not much free-flowing cash was floating around.

By the time that World War II became a reality in the 1940s, this labor of love ended with the children being taken to the Methodist home in Macon. But for the local fighter for good causes,. taking care of the homeless did not end with the closing of the King Daughter’s facility. Now, Mrs. Salisbury became even more enthusiastic about her humanitarian work. And, as she told Miss Vaughan, it was soon after this episode that the historic-to-be Sunshine Girls was organized.

“I drove up and saw these two little girls, and one was crying,” told Mrs. Salisbury. “I stopped to try to console her. She said that she had gone to a picnic, and everyone had taken a picnic basket; when she opened her lunch, she became embarrassed because hers was so poor. I told her to come to my house, and we’d start a club, and we did, with three girls, and it grew from there.” Again, a theme of this lady is noted: “Stella Salisbury backed up her words with action...,” recalled Pastor James Chester at her funeral.

Great pride came when the Morris Jacobson award for contributions in brotherhood and in community relations was mentioned. “I am the only woman ever to get this honor,” she would smile, indicating that she had set a precedent for others of her sex to follow. She also made a point to relate that being enrolled in Delta Kappa Gamma, an education sorority, was “the biggest honor I ever got. I never taught a day in my life; I was not a teacher,” the benevolent and humbled public servant remarked, showing disbelief that anyone could think of her as an educator.

A Waycross Mother-of-the-Year and the recipient of the American Legion Citation for Meritorius Service by the George Wayland Hiers Post 4382 in 1953, Mrs. Salisbury, it was re-emphasized, exampled this recognition by giving “distinguished service to her less fortunate fellowman.” She also gained the Kiwanis’ coveted Miller Award, another accolade testifying to her unselfish work in the community.

Her charity appeared to be neverending: Salvation Army Advisory Board member, W.C.T.U. and, of course, King Daughter’s. She was remembered by many of the First United Methodist Church as a “Pastor Without Pay”; since 1902, she, it is reputed, prepared communion for the church. Some estimate that would be 50 years of service. But, above all this praise, she maintained an intense love for and desire to do something for the welfare of others as her true purpose for being.

Married to Del Salisbury, a jeweler for the Atlantic Coast Line Railroad and Youmans Jewelers in Waycross, she found time to balance her “homework” of rearing her own family with that of a community’s children. Her niece, Mrs. Emma Walker Keenan, asserts that her aunt never waivered once she decided on an action because she had, beforehand, thoroughly investigated all sides and knew which course to take. And even though she was warned about certain situations because of the dangers involved, she stepped in where, sometimes, “angels feared to tred.”

Perhaps Marvel G. Adams says it best in “Angel of Mercy”: 

“The welfare worker in our town
Is an angel, I believe;
“The miracles that she performs
My mind cannot conceive.
“She’s on the job both night and day;
In sunshine or in rain;
“It doesn’t matter when she’s called -
She never does complain.
“She goes about just doing good,
Caring for those in need;
“There’s not a thing that she’d withhold,
For she’s friend, indeed.
“Someday, I know that she will hear
The Master say, `Well done!’
“For she has been so faithful here,
Tending each `little’ one.”

Click on the small thumbnail prints to see a larger view.

salisbury_stella_walker.jpg (23211 bytes)   salisbury_stella_sunshine_girls.jpg (32731 bytes)
Left: Mrs. Stella Walker Salisbury, Right: Mrs. Salisbury & her Sunshine Girls.

Copyright © 2002 Robert Latimer Hurst,
All Rights Reserved.

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