Susan Hemphill Mitchell Addis

2 entries
  • "Please know our thoughts and prayers are with you and your..."
    - Clair & Barbara Henkes
  • "May God bless you and your family in this time of sorrow."
    - FC
The Guest Book is expired.

Susan Hemphill Mitchell Addis (1926-2017)
We are gathered here today to honor Susan Hemphill Mitchell Addis: mother of 4, grandmother of 5, and great grandmother of 4. This is a family that now spans two continents, but began in a third.
Who was Susan? A frail, little old lady who lived in a nursing home in the twilight of her life? Yes, there is no doubt that in her later years she had become frail and did reside in a home away from home, but even in old age she was a resilient and hardy woman.
Let me tell you her story, for it is most definitely a story worth telling. Unfortunately, like most Scottish stories, it begins with tragedy, is steeped in pain and hardship, but ends up in the new worlds of Australia and America, where the bright sunshine of hope and prosperity abound.
Sue's father, John, was born in Scotland in 1885, but before he reached one year old, his mother died. The death certificate of Sue's grandmother documented her cause of death as starvation! Yes, Sue's grandmother died of starvation while still breast feeding Sue's father. Scotland has always been a hard country, but the uncivilized, brutal inhumanity of this tragedy brings it home.
Grief stricken, Sue's grandfather left his son, Sue's one year old father, in the care of a close friend and he immigrated to America, in search of a new life. Eighteen months later, after establishing himself in America, he sent for his young son, Sue's father, and the young woman who was looking after him. They were married in New York City the day after she arrived. They lived and prospered in New Jersey for about 4 years but, homesick they returned to Scotland.
Sue's father was raised in Scotland. Can you imagine the tales he heard about America at the supper table in Scotland! America caught Sue's father's imagination and as soon as he came of age and had saved the money for passage, he sailed west to America. He got a job and established himself in New Jersey, just like his father before him had done.
He would return to Scotland, however, whenever he could save the 5 pounds needed for passage. You see, there was a certain young lass, Isabella, who had caught his eye back in Scotland and he wanted to see her. One day, he sent money for her passage and she joined him in America. Like his father before him, the very next day John married Isabella, Sue's mother. Like father, like son! They were married in the New Jersey church where John was the church Sextant.
Life was good in America for Sue's young parents, John and Isabella Mitchell. They had a daughter, Elizabeth in 1911, and a son, John, in 1914, both born in America. Sue was not even a twinkle in her parents' eyes at this time.
1914 was an ominous time in the world. Tensions in Europe were sky high and the clouds of war were on the horizon. Sue's parents returned to Scotland. Perhaps they sought safety in the British Empire, or perhaps they felt obliged to do their part in the impending war effort, we shall never fully know. Unfortunately, from that point on their life took a marked turn for the worse.
Shortly after arriving back in Scotland in 1915, Elizabeth, died at 4 years old. Then, 3 years later, her brother, Paul, was born, but died in 1920 of influenza. Her other brother, John, contracted rheumatic fever, which would take his life from cardiac complications at age 18, when Sue was just 7 years old.
These tragic losses stung Sue's parents. Nevertheless, Sue prospered. She did well in school and would likely have continued her schooling, but, in true Scottish drama, her mother died of a brain tumor at age 56 when Sue was just 17. No one would believe this story if it was written as fiction; only a Scottish real life tragedy could create this misery. Sue worked and helped keep house for her father.
Sue met Bill Addis at a dance and they dated, but another war intervened. Bill joined the Royal Navy and was sent to West Africa. He was a Petty Officer with the Royal Navy in charge of a PT boat. He returned after the war and married Sue. Life was tough economically in Great Britain after World War II. Bill applied for jobs in Canada, Australia and America. Australia was first to offer him a job, it even came with free passage, so Sue and Bill took it. As Dad would always say to us, "Glasgow was a good town to be from!" Bill and Sue immigrated to Australia in January of 1952 with two sons: Johnny (2) and Bobby (9 months). Johnny had his second birthday on the voyage, and Bill and Sue had their 3rd anniversary.
Australia has been good to my parents and to us, their children. Bill and Sue bought a house about two years after arriving in Morwell. That would never have happened in Scotland. Sue lived in that house until a couple of years ago. They flourished. Sue had another son, David, and a daughter, Lynne. Sue and Bill embraced their new homeland, Australia. Believing that education was the way for their children to live a better life, they encouraged each of their children to "do well in school". I still remember the troubles we would get into if our "marks" were not good enough. Dad always admonished us "to get an education" so that we could work with our brains and not our brawn. Neither Sue nor Bill graduated from high school. Bill left school after completing 10th grade, and Sue after 9th grade. That was the way of life in Scotland at that time. But, they made sure that we, their children, took advantage of the education that was offered in this great country of Australia.
Dad always believed that it was just as important to educate a girl as a boy. He would say, "when you educate a boy, he can get a good job and provide for his family, but when you educate a girl, you educate the whole family, because she spends the most time with the children." That was not a common mind set back in the 1950's and 1960's. Bill and Sue were ahead of their time.
All of Bill and Sue's children went to university, as have her three grandchildren in America. Her two Ozzie grands are in school, and if I know Lynne and Allan, their two kids will go on to university:
-- John, Sue's eldest, became a doctor and has led a full life of service in a highly respected practice in Canterbury, a suburb of Melbourne. His wife is a practicing psychologist and a Canterbury city councilwoman. -- Robert, their second born, receive a bachelor's degree in physics, went to England to do a master's degree in meteorology, where he was kidnapped by a cute little blonde American on a "junior year abroad" program. He went on to receive a PhD in Virginia and has fulfilled the unrealized dreams of Sue's parents and grandparents to settle and flourish in America. Robert and his wife have three children, two daughters and a son: Kristen is a dermatologist, Andrew a Captain in the US Army and Katie an interior designer. Robert and Diane also have 4 grandchildren. -- David, who stayed in the Latrobe Valley, is a chemist and heads up the environmental program at Hazelwood power station here in Morwell. -- Lynne, Sue's only daughter and youngest child, received a degree in applied sciences and is raising a family of her own in Melbourne. She and her husband, Allan, have two children: Christopher and Jessica.So as you remember Susan, remember her as a frail old lady, if wish, but as for me, I remember her as a resilient woman, a strong survivor, and a mother who wanted the best opportunities for her children, whether it be in Australia or America.
Mum, we remember and honor you today. Thank you for a life well lived. Robert P. Addis
Published in The Aiken Standard and North Augusta Star on July 2, 2017