Wish StoriesHattie Returns to Mississippi to Honor Her Family
At age 96, Hattie is a woman who brightens the path of everyone she meets. Her story is an extraordinary example of triumph over tragedy, as Hattie has faced tremendous obstacles and loss throughout her life. Along the way, Hattie’s deep love of family, alongside her faith, has kept her steadfast through it all.
Hattie’s roots are in Tchula, a small rural town in Mississippi with less than 2,000 people and a history of racial struggle. It is a place where cotton was once grown and harvested by enslaved people, and later, by sharecroppers who farmed the land but were denied the right to own it.
Hattie, one of 10 siblings, grew up on a sharecropper farm outside of town. She recalls working alongside her parents in the plantation fields, picking cotton and corn under the hot sun. Although their family worked hard, she was happy, and their home was always filled with love.
Top title image and image above, left, by Cyrus McCrimmon for UCHealth
Hattie’s family moved into town, and a few years later, she met her husband, Johnnie, a WWII Army Veteran. They fell in love and married. But her new marital happiness was quickly interrupted by the death of her parents—a loss that still affects her today.
Hattie took what she learned from her loving and supportive parents and passed that on to her own children, raising three boys. Her husband’s career in the military forced them to move many times in the U.S. and abroad, but eventually, the family settled in Denver.
Even with the stability of a permanent home, life was not easy. Johnnie contracted tuberculosis and had to spend extensive time in the hospital. Taking care of their boys on her own was a challenge, but Hattie persevered. She became an active, beloved figure in her community and church.
Image above, right, by Cyrus McCrimmon for UCHealth
Hattie faced the racial and civic issues of the time bravely, adamantly fighting against the housing discrimination and redlining Black Americans were experiencing. Today, redlining encompasses racial discrimination in housing, with the name coming from the red, outlined areas on government maps where Black residents were allowed to buy homes and live.
Hattie refused to accept these limitations, moving from house to house until they finally found a neighborhood and home they loved in 1956. And she has remained there to this day.
When Wish of a Lifetime heard Hattie’s story, we were honored to help her fulfill her wish. Along with help from Hattie’s family and her healthcare team at UCHealth, Hattie returned to Mississippi to visit her hometown and pay her respects at her parents’ graves.
Accompanied by her niece Janice, Hattie flew from Colorado to Mississippi, finally stepping foot in Tchula after so many years away. Upon arriving, she was surprised to see a crowd greeting her! It felt like the whole town had heard her story and showed up to welcome her with open arms.
But first, Hattie had to do what her heart yearned for—to see her parents’ resting place in a small cemetery outside town, surrounded by the cotton fields of her youth.
Presented with the moment she had been waiting for, Hattie felt a surge of anticipation and energy. She chose to leave behind her usual walker and cane and, with the help of her family, walked across the field, where she prayed and paid her respects.
The group returned to town to revisit the places of Hattie’s past, eat together, and reunite with familiar faces in the community.
“Visiting the gravesite brought her to peace,” Hattie’s niece Janice said. “We haven’t seen her smile like that in a long time—she was smiling and grinning, standing up, and walking.”
It was an emotional time for Hattie. When asked about her wish experience, she shared that she felt both sad and happy.
“I felt sad, but also felt a sense of closure of this chapter in my life,” Hattie said. “I am so blessed that I got to go to Mississippi and to see my family.”
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