Susie Savannah Hartfield
Susie Savannah Hartfield died Saturday, September 14, 2019, in Raymond, MS. She was just shy of 95 years of age. Savannah was born October 24, 1924, on a hard scrabble farm in Oak Grove, Forrest County, MS. Her childhood was tough with plenty of field and house work, but also filled with the love of her parents (Oliver and Ollie Armstrong), 2 brothers (Hershel and Donald) and 2 sisters (Dorothy and Mildred), her many aunts, uncles, and cousins, as well as a close knit farm community and church family. The death of her mother in Savannah’s early teens propelled her, as the eldest daughter, into the role of primary caregiver for young Mildred and severely handicapped Dottie, as well as housekeeper and cook for the entire family. In the latter endeavor, Savannah was advised and assisted by her neighbor, Vema Hartfield, whom she always claimed taught her to cook, and who would eventually become her mother-in-law. About the time of Savannah’s graduation from high school, Oliver remarried, and his new wife (Bess) took authority over the household and care of Mildred and Dottie. This was also the outbreak of the war, and Savannah, along with many other young ladies of that time, was able to find work and move into the big City of Hattiesburg. There, along with Jimmy Hartfield (Vema’s boy), she worked at the Phoenix Laundry, where her employer and co-workers began calling her “Susie.” After her brothers and Jimmy were pulled into the war, Susie remained at Phoenix for the duration.
According to family lore, upon his return from the Pacific and discharge from the Navy, Jimmy immediately made his way to Hattiesburg, walked into Phoenix Laundry and proposed to Susie; they went directly to the JP and were married. Thus began her life-long career as housewife, following and supporting Jimmy in every endeavor, including in those early years as a carpenter, grocer, and dairy farmer. During this time she gave birth to two sons, Wayne (1946) and Paul (1949), extending her role in life to loving mother. While dairy farming near Petal, MS, and as members of Macedonia Baptist Church, Jimmy felt the call to church ministry and determined to pursue a college degree in Christian Education. He sold the farm, and Susie packed up the boys and moved with him to Camp Garaywa outside of Clinton, MS, where they served as camp custodians while Jim attended Mississippi College. This was followed by a couple of years at the Baptist seminary in New Orleans. In 1955 they settled in Baltimore, MD where Jimmy served with the Maryland Baptist Convention, and Susie cooked and cared for her two wild sons.
Following the death of their elder son, Wayne, to leukemia in 1958, Susie and Jim felt called to foreign mission service. After another year of seminary in New Orleans, and a year of language study in Costa Rica, they were appointed as missionaries to Mexico by the Southern Baptist Foreign Mission Board. After their first night in an old colonial hotel in Morelia, Michoacan, they awoke to the sounds of shouts and gunfire, and found themselves at ground zero of a communist student revolt which was being suppressed by Mexican Calvary! (To Paul’s great disappointment, they moved him away from the window into a closet where Susie held him down until things calmed down.) Thus began a 25-year career and adventure as missionaries, which included Mexico City, Guadalajara, Queretaro, El Paso, and back to Mexico City. During this time, Susie and Jim encountered strange new customs and foods, open air markets, wood burning hot water heaters (if any), earthquakes, bandits, scorpions and other weird animals, and became part of the Mexican Baptist community and close-knit missionary family of Mexico. She also became an excellent cook of authentic Mexican food!
Jim and Susie retired in 1986, returning to Macedonia where they raised cattle, bees, and vegetables, enjoyed their granddaughter, Emily; and resumed their former roles as active members of Macedonia Baptist Church. Along with her sister Mildred, they also cared for Dottie until her death. Susie and Jim continued to travel, visiting more than 2 dozen countries, primarily by cruise ship, until Jimmy’s death in 2011. With the help of her friends, Susie remained active at Macedonia Baptist Church and Prime Timers until she moved to assisted living in Raymond, MS.
Susie is survived by son Paul, his wife Libby, granddaughter Emily, her husband Nate Kirk, great grandson Norman Kirk, and her sister Mildred. The family would like to express their gratitude to the staff of Riggs Manor, Underwood House, and Compassus Home Hospice nurses and volunteers for their assistance and compassion.
Services will be held at 3:30 PM Wednesday, September 18, 2019 at Hulett-Winstead Funeral Home Chapel with visitation beginning at 2:30 PM at the funeral home
Interment will be held in Highland Cemetery.
Donations may be made to the International Mission Board, headquartered in Richmond, VA.