Thousands give tens of thousands to hospitalized Fort Hood “hug lady”
Fri, 2015-11-13 05:00 News Staff
By LYNETTE SOWELL
Elizabeth Laird, known to thousands of soldiers as “The Hug Lady,” has been hospitalized for more than a week now at Metroplex Hospital.
Laird’s son, Rick Dewees of Copperas Cove, said Tuesday morning his mother was in ICU and had tachycardia. However, her spirits are still high and visitors have witnessed the Hug Lady’s twinkle in her eye.
If she makes it through this time, she won’t be living alone anymore, Dewees said. Until now, she has lived independently in her own home.
Laird, who will be 84 in January, has battled cancer since 2005. The disease has taken its toll on her body, and Dewees said after her release from the hospital, she will go into an assisted living facility.
Like thousands of elderly across the country, Laird would be required by a rehabilitation center to liquidate any assets, such as a home, to pay for her care if she otherwise doesn’t have enough insurance or cash funds to do so.
Dewees set up a GoFundMe account on Monday hoping to raise $10,000 and by press time Thursday, donations had topped $65,000.
All over social media, as well as on the donation page Dewees set up, soldiers and their families and friends were sharing how a hug from the “Hug Lady” was one of their best memories about returning to Fort Hood after deployment.
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 is a past member of the Citizens Police Academy Alumni Association, but welcoming home the troops has always been her heart.
It’s been estimated that over the span of 12 years, she has hugged as many as 500,000 troops returning from overseas, many of them after multiple deployments.
Dewees said the money will go toward hospital and health expenses, along with paying for her assisted care when she leaves Metroplex, along with funeral expenses when that time eventually comes.
The URL for Laird’s GoFundMe account is https://www.gofundme.com/389hdh4c, where Dewees has been posting daily updates on Laird’s condition, along with her room number at Metroplex.