Oklahoma Baptist Homes for Children

 
James Browning

stories from the book
by James V. Browning


Nellie's Story

Nellie Ratliff


I was born on a sugar beet farm near Platteville, Colo., the sixth child in a family of 13 children. Janey Clara Puckett, was the name that was recorded on my birth certificate. Apparently my mother wasn’t able to take care of me because of illness and my aunt filled in. She called me Nellie Mae and that's the name I have used all my life.

We moved to a cotton farm near Cleveland when I was 9. All of the family helped in the cotton fields, since we were the only labor Dad could afford, so I gained the privilege of chopping and picking cotton.

For reasons I don’t know or understand, our family moved to Yale when I was 12. My father was broke and times were tough. We lived in poverty several miles from town and raised what food we could and depended on the generosity of others to get by.

My five older siblings, four brothers and a sister, all left home rather than live in severe poverty. I was the oldest child still at home and since my mother was ill, I had a great deal of responsibility cast on my young shoulders. I had seven sisters at home to help look after.

My mother’s condition deteriorated and she was hospitalized when I was a seventh grader. She had kidney failure and died when she was 38.

My father was not able to cope with this loss plus the responsibility of eight small children. This led to the break-up of our family. Three of my sisters were adopted and three were taken to live with relatives. The Yale First Baptist Church had been very helpful through our struggles and ministered in every way possible. They picked us up for Sunday School and church on a regular basis and provided basic needs for the family. It was through their efforts that I and my next younger sister were placed in the Baptist Children’s Home in Oklahoma City. This decision would change my life in all the right ways.

My mind is flooded with many pleasant memories as I think of the six years I lived on the corner of 63rd and North Pennsylvania. I had two housemothers that spent a lot of time making sure I did things right. I made a lot of friends and enjoyed swimming in the campus pool. We had wonderful programs presented by students from OBU. We attended Immanuel Baptist Church.

While at the Home, I graduated from John Marshall High School and attended Blackwood Business College. I was still living at the Children’s Home when I started my first job as a secretary for Farm Bureau.

I still attended Immanuel Baptist when I was introduced to a handsome young medical student, Hansel Ratliff. We fell in love and were married in March of 1959. We lived in several apartments near the medical school until Hansel graduated in June, 1962. Our first son was born at Wesley Hospital in May, 1960. We spent a year in Tulsa while Hansel completed his internship.

We moved to Pawnee in August, 1963, where Hansel established a solo medical practice. We had three more sons, born in 1963, 1964, and 1971. We were active members of Pawnee First Baptist Church from the first Sunday we lived there until we left in 1991.

I taught Sunday School in the children’s department, worked with young marrieds and the Woman’s Missionary Union. I served as church hostess and on the personnel committee. I was a full-time homemaker until all the boys were in school, and then I worked three days a week in my husband’s office.

Our youngest son, Kyle, was diagnosed with a malignancy when he was 7months old and died at 13months of age. This was a very difficult time of testing. Our pastor used the phrase from Isaiah 11:6 that states, “a little child shall lead them.” There was reference to the fact that we would all someday be united with Kyle in our heavenly home. I began to have doubts about my salvation, but was reluctant to discuss it with anyone since I was so involved in the church.

In 1976, after viewing the film, “A Thief in the Night,” I made my profession of faith and accepted Jesus as Savior and Lord. From that time forward, I have the assurance that I will be reunited with my youngest son in heaven.

I had a mastectomy for breast cancer in 1983 and remain a cancer survivor to this date. My husband had triple by-pass heart surgery in 1988 and made a satisfactory recovery, but this led to the decision to make a change in our lives. After 27 years of practice in Pawnee, my husband accepted a position with Central Oklahoma Medical Group in Norman. We are both active members of Norman, First Baptist Church.

I give all the praise and glory to God for where I am today. I am so thankful to all Oklahoma Baptists who gave the resources and time to provide the Baptist Children’s Home. Keep up the good work, Oklahoma Baptists, and be there when children need your help.

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