A cancer survivor and #8216;Steel Magnolia#039;

Published 12:00 am Saturday, April 29, 2006

The Crenshaw County Relay For Life is set for this Friday, April 28, from 5 p.m. until 5 a.m. at E. L. Turner Park. Relay For Life is an overnight fund-raising event filled with activities, food and community spirit.

All funds raised at Relay For Life support the American Cancer Society programs designed to reduce cancer incidence and mortality through research, education, advocacy and patient services.

This is just one amazing story of a courageous cancer survivor:

Nobody can accuse southern women of being weak and frail, not after watching the movie &#8220Steel Magnolias” or witnessing Scarlet O'Hara in action in &#8220Gone With The Wind.”

They come in all shapes and sizes in the South, and at the

Luverne Health and Rehab, there is a pint-sized heroine who can compete with the best of them.

People come and go in the nursing home business.

But, when this petite, brown-haired, spitfire arrived one week out of high school, in 1972, to apply for a newly created position in activities, the then-administrator Cleve Money said that she was too young for the position, without having an inkling that she would soon have his job.

In true southern heroine style, she took the only other job that was available at the time and went to work as a certified nursing assistant. Within three months, she not only had the activities job, but a part-time position in the business office, and Charlotte Majors was on her way.

Majors said she never really chartered a course as a Financial Specialist, but she believes all the business education in the world could not have prepared her for the challenges she has faced handling billions of dollars in nursing home funds over the past 34 years.

&#8220I was nineteen,” she said, &#8220when Doctor Kendrick and Doctor Ray, decided to sell the 48-bed facility.

The administrator and the office manager quit when they learned the doctors had sold out, and Doctor Kendrick put me in charge until the new owners took over.”

Majors said the Cooks, incorporated as Maxicare, quickly cut her salary back to where it was before the doctors had doubled it when they had placed her in charge.

She said Doctor and Ms. Otis Cook gave her a small salary increase, over what she had been making, and made her the office manager. Majors said by the time she was 21, the facility had gone through several administrators and had increased to 137 beds.

She said the administrator, at that time, Dale Sasser, took a position in the Maxicare Corporate Office in Wetumpka, and the Cooks urged her to apply for her administrator's license, and she became the Facility Administrator from 1977-1979.

Majors described the ordeal with all the drama of Scarlet attempting to keep up her beloved &#8220Tara” during the Civil War.

&#8220It was a nightmare,” she said.

&#8220I'd never heard of a computer back then.

I had an old manual typewriter and one assistant.

I filled all the beds on handwritten forms, by word of mouth, and did all the medical records.

At one point I thought I might have to go to school to learn about medical records, though.

Glen and I had married in 1976, and we were expecting our first child.

I was under tremendous pressure, even before I discovered I was carrying twins.

I carried my twin boys six months, and one lived a day and the other one two days. We were so devastated by the loss that I turned in my notice.

The Cooks sent Dale Sasser back from the Wetumpka office and asked if I'd take the office manager's position back and remain the Assistant Administrator.”

Majors said she agreed to stay even though she was making less than the nurses on the halls when she was the Administrator, with no health or retirement benefits.

&#8220Glen and I had April, our little girl, in 1980,” Majors said.

&#8220We were so happy and so afraid something might happen to her.

We had our son, Trey, in 1985, and our family was complete.”

Majors said the facility sold again in 1986 to Northport Health Services of Tuscaloosa.

She said Sasser left in 1988 and Barbara (Ward) Matthews became the Administrator.

The two became very close over the years, and when Matthews retired in 2004, Majors said the corporation had become the fastest growing, most prestigious nursing home chain in the southeastern United States. Julie Richburg, who had been the Director of Nursing during Matthews' term, became the current administrator of the 151-bed facility.

&#8220When I was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2003,” Majors said, &#8220my life took on a whole new perspective.

Always having been a perfectionist, I thought I was infallible.

I surely hadn't planned on this. There was nobody equipped to step up and do my job.

After the surgery, I had weeks of radiation followed by months of chemotherapy, and I thought my life was over.

I became angry and bitter at God, not just about me, but for allowing my sister, Sherry, to die of cancer in 1998.

She had a six-year-old son, Justin, and she wanted to live so badly.

I realized I had never put God first in my life.

When I made things right with Him, my bitterness turned into sweet forgiveness and peace, and He left me here for my family, and for my nursing home family.”

Majors, in true southern heroine style, has remained at the helm of the financial entity Northport Health Services in Luverne, and by God's grace and her sheer determination, she may remain another 20 years, at least.

Most southerners never go under with their grief.

They always find their way back along roads where &#8220Steel Magnolias” bloom and where life goes on to the sweet smell of Dixie.

Charlotte Majors has traveled that road, and all our lives have been enriched because of her journey.