Wednesday, September 29, 2010


Many of you may not know it, but my aunt, Crystal Lee Sutton, was the 'real' Norma Rae. She was my mom's sister. She passed away a little over a year ago on September 11, 2009. If you knew my aunt, you could almost believe that she hand-picked the date she would pass away on. Both dates are historic yet tragic in nature.

My aunt was known for her role of standing up for the rights of herself and her fellow workers at a mill in Roanoke Rapids, NC in the late 70's. (Yes, she is the one who stood atop that table in the middle of the mill & held up the sign that read, "UNION"....just like you saw Sally Field do in the movie.) She believed in the rights of the working poor and the irony is upon her death, she was in a fight with the insurance company over coverage for the brain cancer she was suffering with. They denied her coverage of the medicines she needed to sustain her life. In reality, I don't know that there was anything that the meds could do other than prolong her life for a bit longer. She would have suffered regardless.

I recall the Tuesday prior to her death, something told me that morning to go see her. It was the last 'good' day she had before she was transported to our local Hospice home and slipped into a coma. On her last 'good' day she had incredible recollection of her past memories of family and friends. She, my mom & my other aunt shared some laughs and for a brief moment in time you almost believed she was going to be okay. But I knew that was the last day she would know laughter, tears and a sense of joy.

My aunt was a fighter. She fought for those she believed in and for those values that were instilled in her long before she ever knew what a union was. She was one of the strongest women I have ever known. She was a realist. She had a no-nonsense way about her that was loving and all too inspiring. She once told me when I was a young girl, "Dawn, you are gonna grow up to be President one day." She believed in people and made them believe in themselves.

While her legacy might be about what she stood for that made history, to me she was just "Aunt Lee" who was a family staple, who drank black coffee and sat around my parent's kitchen table in my early days growing up talking about how she would one day change the world. She wasn't far off base. She did just that. She took a stand for what she believed in and for those who deserved it and made her mark on this world...never to be forgotten.

I share all this because many of you know I'm an avid crocheter. I have been working on an afghan for my mom that will have my aunt's picture stitched on it. (See below....this is the pic I'm stitching.) It will be my mom's Christmas present. When I get it done, I will be sure to post pics. My aunt certainly deserved more than having her picture stitched on an afghan, and I can't imagine what she would say to that. One thing is for sure, just as her legacy will live on indefinitely, so shall this afghan prove to be a keepsake that will be handed down from generation to generation as a reminder of the person my aunt was and the person she is being remembered for.

If there was one thing I could say I took away from my aunt it would have to be to always believe in yourself and never give up on your dreams. She always had this saying, "if you worry why pray, and if you pray, why worry". Makes alot of sense if you think about it. That's just how she was...practical, simple and always full of hope. Her faith in God sustained her even in her darkest hour. She was an inspiration to me and so many of the lives she touched.


Carolyn NC said...

Hi Dawn,
Did you live in RR also? That's my hometown, though I don't remember all of the union events at the time. We moved there in 1969. My DH remembers about your aunt. Interesting that Sally Field favors her, too. Wonderful idea for your mother.

GoldenAngelsWorks said...

She sounds like a very special lady!

Those that knew her were real lucky.