Sometimes the doctor asked her to make one last nursing visit on the mountain after she got off work — someone needing to be checked on. Sometimes it was a knock on the door — someone needing help. And sometimes they were waiting for her on her front porch — someone needing help right away.
Whenever and whoever needed Louise Day Waugh Fuller, or “Miz Waugh” to many in the Brushy Mountain community, she would be on those backcountry roads to give the help needed.
Fuller worked for the Wilkes County Health Department for 30 years, starting in the 1950s as a public health nurse. “When the department asked me to get my family nurse practitioner’s license, I became one of the first FNPs in Wilkes County. I was 50 years old at the time and had to spend the summer at the University of Chapel Hill to get my license, just coming home on weekends.”
For her community service as a nurse, Fuller was named the 2019 Heritage Person of the Year by the Brushy Mountain Community Center.
The North Wilkesboro native will be honored as such at the first annual Brushy Mountain Peach and Heritage Festival on July 27 in downtown Wilkesboro. Fuller, 96, will be at the Wilkes Heritage Museum from 1-3 p.m. greeting people.
“When I first moved up here to the Brushy Mountains, I felt like I had come to a foreign country. Being a city girl at heart made country life a challenge for me, but a challenge that I would soon come to love. That was in 1951,” said Fuller in a recent interview.
As a county public health nurse, she worked in family planning, dispensed birth control, gave physical exams and changed dressings. Fuller best recalls visits to little mountain homes.
“I remember a home I visited where it was just the mother and a 3-year-old boy. The father was in prison. That little boy followed me around the house and tugged on my uniform, and when I looked down at him, he proudly told me, ‘I can spit tobacco in that fireplace.’ I’m not sure how I was supposed to answer that,” Fuller said with a laugh.
Another case was a man who just came home after surgery. “The doctor couldn’t get up here to check on him so he asked me to administer an IV for him when I got home that evening. That home was so little, and had so little furniture, that I didn’t know where to hang the IV. Finally, I looked up at the ceiling and asked one of his sons to find me a nail. I climbed on a chair and pounded that nail in the ceiling and then bent it — and that’s where I hung the IV…. It was a simple fix, and the man recovered just fine.”
Fuller made special visits whenever someone asked for extra help, such as for a family that got to town only once a month. “They had a little boy preschool age, and because he went to school on the mountain, they didn’t get him his preschool vaccinations in town. His parents would call and ask if I’d bring over the vaccine. When I got there, that little boy hated those shots so much, he ran and hid under his bed. His dad would have to go pull him out.”
Fuller was among nurses who gave polio shots at the old Mountain Crest School, now the Brushy Mountain Fire Station.
She helped transport neighbors like the sister of an orchard worker with diabetes. “I’d find her and her mother sitting on the porch when I got home because no one had phones back then. She needed help so I drove her back to town.”
Fuller graduated from the Watts School of Nursing in Durham in the early 1940s and worked at the old Wilkes Hospital in North Wilkesboro until 1945. Afterwards, she had post-graduate training at Columbia Hospital in South Carolina. In 1946, she began work at a hospital in New York.
Fuller said with a laugh that her claim to fame was having Hollywood actress Luise Rainer as a patient in New York. Rainer was the first person to win back-to-back Oscars and the first to win Oscars before age 30. She won for “The Great Ziegfield” in 1936, and for “The Good Earth” in 1937.
“I later learned that she was the longest-lived Oscar winner when she died just before her 105th birthday. She would always ask for me when she wanted a nurse. The last time I helped her was when she was ready to go to the delivery room to have her child. I just remember what a beautiful woman she was.”
Fuller next was head of the nursery department at Wesley Long Hospital in Greensboro and then returned to North Wilkesboro when she married Clyde Miller Waugh in 1947.
“Clyde had been in the Navy and when he got out he worked for his daddy (William “Will” Waugh), who owned Gold Medal Orchard at the foot of Brushy Mountain. He grew up in the business. The family orchard got its name by winning a gold medal for its apples at the World’s Fair in 1904 in St. Louis,” Fuller said.
“We lived downtown for about three years, and I worked as a private duty nurse. Then, Clyde’s father turned over some of his orchards on the mountain to him. At first, we had a little cottage, but we moved around a lot. We lived where the old Big R Orchards were at one time then moved to Buena Vista Orchards near New Hope Baptist Church.”
Fuller said they grew old apple varieties like limbertwig, Stayman, Jonathan, Virginia beauty, red and golden delicious, Grimes, blue, and queen on about 150 acres in orchard. “With all those trees around us, I remember feeling so isolated, but I soon changed my mind and felt very welcome by the people on the mountain. They are the friendliest neighbors you will ever have.”
The young couple started their family — daughters Rebecca Lowe and Martha Elizabeth “Beth” Fuller and a son, Clyde Miller “Corky” Waugh Jr. Fuller also has six grandchildren and 10 great-grandchildren.
Rebecca Lowe recalled, “My brother and sister and I walked and rode our bikes all over the mountain. Sometimes we went to Gentle’s Grocery or the general stores run by Lonz Anderson or Ed Jennings for things like bread, milk or eggs — or candy. Sometimes we rode our bikes down the steepest, most winding roads we could find. People driving by would stop because they knew mom and dad. They would stop and inquire if we were all right and if our parents knew where we were.”
Lowe said her mother is a good cook and had three meals on the table every day, plus she baked bread and made pies. “Her chocolate cream pie was wonderful.” She said Fuller also took time for herself, including by driving to town every week to bowl with her league.
She proudly said people loved her mother for what she did as a nurse. “As a thank you, one family has given her 10 or 15 handmade quilts over the years.”
Within one week in 1986, Fuller retired from the health department, married her second husband, Dr. Don Fuller, and moved to Pittsboro. However, they missed the Brushies and their families there so soon returned and moved into an old farmhouse on Lithia Springs Road.