THE ENTREPRENEURIAL SPIRIT
To know Elsie Bloodworth is to know someone who is friendly, always smiling and humorous. She is a person who can brighten your day with an encounter.
Elsie is always busy. Since moving to Kirby Pines in 2021, she is the “go-to” person if you want something done in the creative or artistic realm. This could describe her entire life, especially as she was a pioneer in paving the way for women to become recognized as being capable of becoming leaders in the business world. The accomplishments in her life are amazing. How could a girl born and raised in a small, rural community in Mississippi achieve the ultimate personal and professional life?
Elsie Stafford was born and raised on a self-sustaining farm in Winona, Mississippi. Life was simple and good. With great parents and grandparents, good food, three siblings and a helpful community, Elsie’s life was ideal for creating her personality and strong work ethic. According to Elsie, “I could write a book about all my experiences growing up. We grew all of our food and preserved it for the winter. My father provided the meat. Our cows produced milk for our family and supplied a source of income. Hog killing was a big event. Breakfast was always a big meal, and not unusual for our family to have quail, hot biscuits, gravy and rice along with jellies and jams.”
Elsie loved school and was very social. She had the same classmates for all 12 grades. “We had good teachers, and although I maintained a good average, my brother won many math contests,” says Elsie. Elsie’s leadership skills developed early as she served as captain of the basketball team and president of the 4HA club. She also ran track and sang in the glee club.
Elsie could not afford to attend college, but she learned of the Draughon’s Business College in Memphis. So, following graduation in 1945, Elsie moved the 125 miles to Memphis and lived with friends while she attended Draughon’s.
Shortly after coming to Memphis, Elsie met and began dating her future husband, a college student. “We didn’t have any money to afford entertainment,” admits Elsie, “But we both loved to play tennis. We would go to the tennis court, and if it was dark, we spent a dime to turn on the electricity and played until the lights went out.” The courtship was brief, and they married three months after meeting.
It would be seven years before the first child, Steven, was born. He was followed by Terri, and then Scott. Elsie loved being a homemaker and mother. According to Elsie, “Our home was a ‘hangout’ for our kids and their friends. Each child owned their own horse, and I think the happiest time in their lives was riding in horse shows, such as the one in Germantown.” The family lived in mid-town Memphis and attended Eudora Baptist Church.
During the seven years before her children came, Elsie worked at various jobs, including secretarial work at Western Union, selling real estate, and as executive secretary to a vice-president of First Tennessee Bank. As Elsie’s children became older, she had the desire to return to work and obtained employment with Innkeepers Supply, a division of the Holiday Inn chain. After seven years, she took the big leap and became a partner in Mid-America Hotel Furnishings which sold furnishings to hotels. “We helped the hotels put the total package of furnishings together,” states Elsie. She was fortunate to have the opportunity to be a part of the Branson, Missouri “boom”, furnishing 25 hotels and several theaters including those of Ray Stevens, Andy Williams and Wayne Newton. Her company also was involved with the Hampton Inns and other hotel chains. Eventually, Elsie sold her partnership but continued to work on commission. “I made more money working on commission than I did as a partner, and I didn’t have the worry of managing the company,” admits Elsie.
In 1995, Elsie and a friend started the Furniture, Fixtures and Equipment (FF&E) golf tournament with participants from the hotel industry, many of whom were from other countries. “Our money went to the Hemophilia Foundation. Through the years of the tournament’s existence, we donated more money to that foundation than any other donor in Tennessee,” reports Elsie.
One of Elsie’s favorite hobbies was gardening, and she became a Master Gardener, donating her time to help the various local gardens. Elsie also enjoyed travel, and in her work, she traveled the United States and to 13 foreign countries.
If there was such a thing as retirement, Elsie enjoyed playing golf several days a week and played in several tournaments. Her favorite was The Golden Girls Tournament. Elsie enjoys time with her adult children, her six grandchildren and six great-grandchildren.
Elsie says that living at Kirby Pines has been an adventure. She is involved in many of the activities provided at Kirby, including the Art Club, Bible study, church services, various card games, and currently as Wing Leader. She visits residents in other areas of Kirby as well as being a part of the production staff for the Kirby Pines Theater Group.
When asked what she liked about living at Kirby, Elsie replied, “The residents are caring, and the staff is efficient. The food is outstanding, and I don’t have to wash dishes! I no longer call Kirby ‘home’; I now call it my resort!”
Written by Joan Dodson, Resident of Kirby Pines.