When 75-year-old Dorothy Airth was born into a family of 4 brothers and 2 sisters in Norwood, Massachusetts, her middle sister suggested they name her Sue or Susie. The other children agreed; and from that day forward, she was known as ‘Sue’.
“The first day of school, however, was a different story,” says Sue. “During roll-call, the teacher went through the student roster, acknowledging each person; then, she came to the name Dorothy Airth. “Dorothy,” she called. “Is Dorothy here? Dorothy Airth — are you in the room?” the teacher bellowed. Hearing her last name, she knew it must be her, so Dorothy replied, “I’m here!”
That afternoon, when she arrived home, she asked her mother why her name was Dorothy and not Sue. Her mother replied with a smile; and raising both her shoulders said, “I don’t remember. No matter. When parents name their children, the kids never like their names, anyway!”
While Dorothy was growing up (We’ll just call her ‘Sue’, since everyone else does!), she began losing family members in tragic ways: First, her sister, only 26 years old, died during childbirth. Her brother Bill, just 39 years old, died during an experimental cancer treatment. Sue stayed by his side until the very end. Sue’s devotion to her older brothers and sisters kept her strong; and as the “baby” of the family, she soon took on the position of family matriarch.
Now married with children, Sue’s oldest brother, Bob, talked them into moving to Virginia Beach to escape the harsh winters of Massachusetts; so, in 1977, they packed up and moved here with their two children (daughter Cheryl and son Alan). No matter the distance in the new home, the bond kept her in close touch with each remaining member of the family.
In the 60s — now divorced and a single mother of two — she rushed to North Carolina, where her 3rd brother’s wife was diagnosed with brain cancer. She took care of her brother and his family of 4 children, along with her own two. After extensive surgery, the doctors removed 95% of the cancer, and she pulled through. Sue remained in North Carolina to take care of her sister-in-law and the family for more than 3 months, before returning to Virginia Beach.
Sue remarried and gave birth to another girl, whom she named ‘Robin’. Now, with three children of her own, each time family members became ill, Sue rushed to their side — comforting them, loving them, giving of herself to make sure they had everything they needed, sometimes staying for several months until their passing.
Sue says, “They’re all gone now — my mother, my father, all my brothers and sisters. I’m the only one left. Family is the most important thing a person can have in this life. I believe I was born to take care of my family growing up and to become a healthcare giver, no matter who needs my help!”
Again divorced, Sue moved in with her youngest daughter, Robin, at her request. Robin said, “Mom, you have given so much to so many over the years…please let me take care of you.” Sue agreed.
“During the last ten years,” Sue tells us, “my hearing had become more and more strained. I was turning the TV volume up really loud and found myself saying, “huh?” every time someone talked to me. So, about seven years ago, after reading an ad about Beltone in Virginia Beach; and with the help of my retirement from 20 years at the Virginia Beach School System, where I worked in food service (Cafeteria), I scraped together the money to buy a set of hearing aids. This gave me back an important part of my life — the ability to hear. When my daughter Robin talks to me, she starts the conversation by asking, ‘Mom… you got your ears on’?”
“Over the last two years, my hearing has become worse; and my hearing aids no longer help me as much as I need. However, with my limited income, I know that I cannot afford to purchase new ones!”
Then, I received a call from Bari Grohler, the Owner of Beltone on the Southside. She said, “Sue, we’ve been thinking about you and would like to talk with you, if you can find some time to meet.”
“In a meeting with Bari, Beth Hall (Beltone’s VP), and Peter Cousin (Beltone’s Director of Marketing), Bari shared with me, ‘we began a tradition last year of gifting a set of hearing aids to a deserving patient whom we selected for having given to others unselfishly and without expectation of anything in return. While examining our files, yours continued to rise to the top for consideration; and we are so excited to inform you that YOU have been chosen to be our Second Year Recipient’!”
Tears rolled down Sue’s face, as she was handed a tissue, trying to choke back her emotions. “This is amazing! I’m overwhelmed at your generosity,” she said. “Thank you so much for this recognition, and I’m so moved to have been chosen! I don’t have the words to tell you how much this means to me! There is no way I could afford to purchase a new set of hearing aids at this time of my life.”
Bari continued, “Sue, we are thrilled to present you with a complete set of state-of-the-art, Beltone hearing instruments, which are digital and self-adjusting!” (Bari showed Sue an example, which she held in her hand.) “These will fit over your ear with a very small, almost invisible clear tube, which will fit comfortably into your ear canal. We want you to know that this gift also includes a lifetime of batteries, repairs and cleaning; and it is truly our pleasure to reward you for your lifetime of giving!” [The value of this gift is placed at more than $8,000.00.]
“This amazing person — a lover of life, friends and family — is well-deserving of this gift,” stated Bari Grohler, “and we are so thrilled to make Sue Airth this year’s recipient!”