Johnny Huguely of Richmond recalls the story this way: Back in the mid-1920s, Lillian H. Jones, a nurse and Huguely's great aunt, placed her wealthy employer's very sick daughter in a tub of ice, trying to break the child's raging fever.
The doctor who had cared for the child called the family together and said he had run out of ways to lower the child's body temperature and basically gave up on her.
"But Aunt Lil told them to bring all the ice in the house and anywhere else and then she worked with that child all night," said Huguely, 58.
The next morning, the fever had broken and a bond between nurse and patient was forged that wouldn't be broken until Lillian Jones died in 1997.
The child was Mary Louise Raskob, the 12th child of John Jakob Raskob, financier, executive for DuPont Corporation and General Motors, and builder of the Empire State Building.
Jones had been hired by Raskob soon after her graduation from Freedman's Hospital School of Nursing in Washington, D.C., in 1924. As far as anyone can determine, that would be the only job she would hold from then on.
I came upon this "Madison County girl makes good" story through several phone calls from Mary Sue Thompson, Jones' friend during the nurse's later years of life.
It seems Thompson, 79, of Lexington had made publicizing the woman's story a part of her bucket list. Traveling to Africa is another item on that list. I guess getting me to write about her friend was a lot easier to check off. Far be it from me to leave that quest unfulfilled.
Jones was born Lillian Huguely in Doylesville, Ky., about 15 miles northeast of Richmond, in 1893. Her father, George Huguely, farmed and broke horses while her mother, Mollie, stayed home with their seven children.
In 1912, the family moved to Richmond, where George Huguely built the family home in which Johnny Huguely now lives.
Although the date is uncertain, Jones moved to Washington, D.C., in the early 1900s where she enrolled in the Freedmen's Hospital School of Nursing. She graduated in 1924. By then, she had married Dr. John C. Jones, a general practitioner who hailed from Barbados.
After graduation, Jones was hired by Raskob to care for his three youngest children, including the very ill Mary Louise, at their Archmere mansion in Claymont, Del.
"We all called her 'Boo,'" said Patricia Huguely, Jones' great niece. "She needed 24-hour care and Aunt Lil is the one they chose out of that class."
Jones told Thompson, who met Jones after she retired to Richmond in 1971, that she reared the children as if they were her own. She traveled with them and tended to all their needs.
"Boo used to come and sit at this table and tell us she was her mother," Thompson said while seated in Jones' former home. "Boo would come and they had great dinners here."
But Jones didn't spoil the children. They had to make their own beds each morning and behave in a respectful manner.
"She didn't put up with any foolishness," said Huguely, who enjoyed some of that same mothering.
Whenever Jones and her husband came to visit, guests of all races wearing long mink coats and driving fancy cars would soon stop by for one of the grand parties she would throw. No differences were made or shown.
Johnny Huguely said you didn't know the circles she traveled in because of her humility.
When she retired as a Raskob employee, Jones was given a house in that area by Mary Louise Raskob Duffy, who had married by then. And Duffy also sent Jones monthly checks.
But Richmond was always Jones' home.
In 1971, she had her father's home renovated and enlarged, with a facade similar to her home up north, and then she and her husband came home.
Once the Joneses had settled in Richmond, they hired Mary Sue's husband, James, as their lawyer.
"They wanted to become Kentucky residents and needed estate planning, the preparation of wills and to figure out a way to avoid inheritance taxes," James Thompson said. "I knew how to do that."
When the couple couldn't make it to his office, Thompson said he would come to their home. "I tried to accommodate their needs. She liked me a lot and I admired her. I don't remember anything ostentatious about her."
After her husband died in 1983, Jones fell and broke her hip. When it didn't heal properly, she asked James Thompson to recommend a doctor.
He did and he also volunteered his wife, Mary Sue, to take her to the appointment.
"When I saw Marian Anderson in concert and when I met Miss Lillian, I had the same feelings," Mary Sue Thompson said.
The new surgeon repaired the hip properly, and Jones not only healed but found a new friend.
"After that, I took a back seat," James Thompson said, laughing. "I was still her lawyer, but she and Mary Sue were friends. She just fell in love with her."
They remained friends for more than a decade, until Jones died in 1997.
In Jones' obituary, Mary Louise "Boo" Duffy, Ben Raskob and Patsy Bremmer, the three youngest Raskobs, are listed as Jones' foster children.
The Joneses are buried in Maple Grove Cemetery, just across the street from where they had lived in Richmond.
So now, Mary Sue Thompson can cross that item off her list.
"I had promised Johnny that I would do this," Mary Sue Thompson said, but life and health issues had gotten in the way for two or three years. "I wanted to keep my promise.
"She had come from a small little town way back when she was a young girl, and she had become a nurse, married a doctor and lived such an extraordinary life. People needed to know that."
I agree. I'm glad to help with that list.
Merlene Davis: (859) 231-3218. Email: email@example.com. Twitter: @reportmerle. Blog: merlenedavis.bloginky.com.