“Hug Lady” passes away, services set for this weekend
Fri, 2016-01-01 05:00 News Staff
By LYNETTE SOWELL
Elizabeth Laird, known to thousands of soldiers as “The Hug Lady,” passed away on Christmas Eve.
A public visitation is scheduled for tomorrow from noon until 4 p.m. at Crawford Bowers Funeral Home, located at 211 W. Ave B. in Copperas Cove. On Sunday at 3 p.m., a public funeral service will be held at Christian House of Prayer, located at 3300 E. Stan Schlueter Lp. in Killeen. Laird’s family will hold a private burial at the Central Texas State Veterans Cemetery in Killeen at a later date.
In November, Laird was hospitalized at Metroplex and her son, Rick Dewees, put out a call for help with expenses associated with putting Laird into an assisted living facility, as after her discharge from the hospital she was no longer able to live in her own home alone. Dewees set up a GoFundMe account and within four days, donations had topped $60,000.
All over social media, as well as on the donation page Dewees set up, soldiers and their families and friends have been sharing how a hug from the “Hug Lady” was one of their best memories about returning to Fort Hood after deployment.
Laird was released from the hospital in late November and then resided at a nursing and rehabilitation center in Copperas Cove. Laird was able to celebrate Thanksgiving with her family.
It’s been estimated that over the span of 12 years of Laird meeting flights returning to Fort Hood, she has hugged as many as 500,000 troops, many of them after multiple deployments overseas.
Until her retirement and health struggles, Laird had been active in the Copperas Cove community, running the bookkeeping and tax preparation business Have Pencil Will Travel, belonged to the chamber of commerce and was a past member of the Citizens Police Academy Alumni Association, but welcoming home the troops has always been her heart.
An online petition with nearly 23,000 signatures has been created at change.org. The author of the petition, Jeffrey Wolf of Hanover, Pa., is appealing to the Department of Defense to rename the deployment center at Fort Hood the Elizabeth Laird Deployment Center.