Elvis Presley rock-and-rolled his way into the world’s headlines about 60 years ago and shockingly passed away about 40 years ago. Now, Letetia Henley Kirk, Elvis’s private nurse who lived on the Graceland grounds with her husband and two daughters from 1972 to 1983 has self-publishing a book about her memories of knowing Elvis so intently. Besides caring for Elvis and living in such close proximity to him for about half-a-decade, she traveled with him when he was on tour, according to The Jackson Sun on Saturday.
The book is entitled “Taking Care of Elvis – Memories with Elvis as His Private Nurse and Friend.” “Taking Care of Elvis” is said to be a collection of short stories about Kirk’s life around Presley and the King of Rock-and-Roll’s family. Besides the personal stories of her experiences in caring for Presley, it includes many photos which were previously unpublished.
The author, Kirk, says that Elvis was more than just a patient of hers. He was also a good friend. At 73, Kirk says that her closeness to Elvis is why she didn’t want to write a book for all these years. She said that Elvis wouldn’t have written a book about her if it had been the other way around. But now, some 38 years after Presley died in 1977 – Aug. 16, 1977 to be exact – she says she has a different opinion on revealing stories about him. She said that after a friend convinced her to attend an event during “Elvis Week” – a time at Graceland set aside to commemorate the anniversary of Elvis’ death – in 2014 in Memphis, she ended up talking to many of Elvis’ fans who were mostly Europeans.
Talking with her, the fans convinced her that fans are hungry for stories about what life was like during a normal day at Graceland with Elvis. She said, “They already know the stories about drugs and sex and life on the road. They want to know what Elvis was like at Graceland during his private time.” And, she asserted, “That’s what this book is: light-hearted stories of my memories and experiences with Elvis.” Her stories include experiences she had with Elvis’s extreme generosity for which he had been known for throughout his career.
A country girl, Kirk graduated from Dixie High School in 1960 and then went to St. Joseph School of Nursing in Memphis. Having wanted to be a nurse since she was a little girl, she got her degree in 1963 and was on her way. She was hired by The Medical Group in Memphis, a place where she ended up working for some 40 years. She says that in 1968 she met Elvis when he went to the clinic and was treated after hours for saddle sores from riding horses.
Kirk says that her first encounter with Elvis was when she was in a room assessing Elvis and he was sitting in the corner talking to her with his head down. She says she walked over, lifted his chin and said, ‘Elvis, if you talk to me, you look at me.’ The doctor involved, Dr. Nick, called her into his office after that and she thought she was in trouble for what she had said to Elvis. With a stern look on the doctor’s face, he asked her what she had said to Elvis. She admitted what she had done and the doctor grinned. He told her that Elvis like her “country ways,” according to Yahoo! News. From that experience, she became his regular nurse at the clinic. Then she ended up moving to Graceland in 1972.
When Elvis first proposed that Kirk and her family move into a trailer that he would have placed behind his house, she told him that she wasn’t going to be trailer trash for anyone. But, she admits, Elvis had a way of getting what he wanted. In time, her family moved in the trailer and she took care of Elvis, his father and his grandmother. Elvis also hired her husband, Tommy Henley, to do security work and to “keep his toys running.” Her two young daughters spent much time playing with Elvis’s daughter Lisa Marie who was only 4 years old in 1972 when all of this transpired. Now, Kirk says that she is glad Elvis got his way and she moved into the trailer, according to Fox News.
Kirk says that her family has just bought a new home but ended up renting it out to live in Elvis’s three-bedroom trailer when was placed behind Graceland. She claims Elvis came in and out of the trailer like he was one of her kids. She says, “He was just part of the family.” Elvis did not have serious health issues during that time, but he did have weight and GI tract issues. His father, whom she also cared for at Graceland, had heart issues.
The nurse asserts that she tried to monitor Elvis’s prescription drug usage. However, she said, “They came in from everywhere. His access to medications was overwhelming, and you can’t catch them all. There were no street drugs, just prescription drugs, but it was a nightmare. It was just sad.” It was on Aug. 16, 1977, that she was working at the clinic and her husband called her and told her to get home fast. When she got home, she saw the ambulance on Elvis Presley Boulevard as it sped off to the hospital with Elvis inside. She then learned what had happened to Elvis – as he died at age 42.
She says she was in disbelief, never having dreamed something like that would happen to him. She was worried because Lisa Marie had been home. Kirk still gets emotional about it all and says it was very difficult for her to write the book. Previously, she had been approached to put out her stories via a ghost writer, but she says she didn’t trust what they would do with her memories of Elvis and living at Graceland. So she wrote the stories and her sister-in-law typed them. She self-published with Wimmer – a division of Mercury Printing Co. – in Memphis. The book is 160 pages and has a soft cover, selling for $30. By mail, the book can be received for $36.50. She can be contacted at 901-491-8406 or be her email address: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Kirk’s first husband passed away in 1994 and she remarried since. The Presley family remember her as a Henley. The nurse says she still talks to Priscilla, Elvis’s former wife and Lisa Marie’s mother, a number of times each year.