This story first appeared in the Aug. 18 issue of the Community Voice. For your own subscription, call 270-384-9454.
No matter what Sue Stivers was doing – whether it was working at the local extension office, directing the chamber of commerce, or serving as a trustee at Lindsey Wilson College – she was doing something to serve other people. She helped people learn how to cook, sew and how to be a parent. She helped local businesses get their foundations set for future success, and she helped to make sure thousands of students received a quality education.
Through it all, her generosity and compassion for others was her beacon of light. She never wanted anything in return for her help. She just wanted to make sure everyone she encountered was helped, encouraged and supported.
Stivers died on Aug. 1, but family and friends continue to celebrate her life with their stories and loving memories.
‘Words have power’
“We were very sad to lose Aunt Sue, but she had lived a very full life up to the very end,” said Hannah Peck , Stivers’ great niece and an admissions counselor at LWC. “I told many people that I felt sad for myself, selfishly, but I am not necessarily sad for her because she lived 1,000 lives and lived life to the fullest.
“She is the true definition of having a servant’s heart. She loved the connection she made with people, whether it was at the extension office, at the Chamber, on the Lindsey Wil- son board, or on the committees at the University of Kentucky.”
Peck is the daughter of Susan Peck and the niece of Melissa Giles, both of which are the daughters of Elizabeth Cravens Richards. Richards is Hannah’s grandmother and Stivers’ sister. Stivers was born on June 8, 1936, in the Webbs Crossroads community of Russell Coun- ty to the late Jason Everett and Zellah Cunningham Cravens.
One of the greatest memories Peck has of her great aunt was many years ago when Stivers gave her an easy bake oven as a gift.
“Aunt Sue knew words had power and they stick with you,” Hannah said. “When I was a little girl, probably 4 years old, she bought me an Easy Bake Oven. She was letting me put it together and I was doing it clumsily, like any kid would do.
“I remember this very vividly, she said, ‘Han- nah, you are so good at using tools. You have always been so good at putting things together.’ Even though that happened some 30 years ago, every time I attempt to put something together, I literally remember what she said. Now I think and believe I am good at those things because my Aunt Sue told me so.”
And Peck said that may be the biggest take away from anyone that knew her Aunt Sue at all.
“It was never about her,” Hannah said. “She received several accolades for her generosity, but that’s not why she did it. She did it for the impact it had on others.”
‘I loved to hear the stories’
Bruce Harris made the trek from Birmingham, Ala. to Columbia in late July to see his good friend Sue Stivers.
It was a trip he has made regularly since his 2008 graduation from Lindsey Wilson College.
“I would come pick her up and we would always eat lunch at Fiesta Mexico,” Harris recalled. “Then we would drive around, and Sue would tell me stories about what we saw or people that she knew. She was Adair County for me.”
Harris made the trip to see Stivers again recently to speak at her funeral.
“I had been to Columbia to see Sue the week- end before, but I miss her like crazy,” Harris said. “When I heard she was passed, I was sad, but I rejoiced in knowing Sue is all better now. I had a peace about it because she is in heaven. She lived a full life, and she made a larger impact in her life than some people could in three or four lifetimes. I know there is going to be an irreplaceable void in south central Kentucky.”
Harris saw Stivers’ generosity and kindness first-hand. The Ban- dana, Ky native arrived on campus with literally everything he owned in his car. Through the Bonner Scholars program he met Stivers, and they became instant friends.
“When people care, they don’t have to tell you. Sue had an innate ability to take people in, and I wasn’t the only one,” he said. “Sue communicated with you that you were important, and she would do what she could to help you.
“When you take an 18–19-year-old kid, that is broken at best and wandering for some- thing, meeting some- body like Sue Stivers is a once in a lifetime opportunity. That was what it was for me.”
Harris said Stivers’ kindness to him was never outright, or for others to see.
“The thing is I never asked her for anything,” said Harris, who later became a pharmacist. “She would say, ‘Some- one gave me this gift certificate to Betty’s (local restaurant), and I am not going to use it, why don’t you and your friends take it.’ Or, she would say, ‘Someone gave me this money and wanted me to get it to you but didn’t want you to know who they were.’ She never let me feel like a charity case. Giv- ing was just part of her nature.”