They were the best of friends until the end. They were like family. So when one of them died, the other made her friend’s six children part of her own family.
Stephanie Baylous Culley and Beth Laitkep have been friends for practically most of their lives. They had attended Halifax County High School together. When they became teenagers, the two also ended up working together at Wal-Mart.
Afterwards, Stephanie and Beth would not see each other for many years. But that didn’t matter. They saw each other again, and their friendship was renewed. One can say it was even stronger than it had been before.
This time, both women had families. Stephanie had three children of her own. Meanwhile, Beth had five with another one on the way. She was carrying her youngest child Ace when she was diagnosed with triple negative breast cancer.
Over time, Beth got worse. By April, the cancer had already spread to her brain, nervous system, and spine. Beth was a dying, a fact that her six children knew.
As she continued to get worse, Beth opened up that her biggest concern was keeping her children together after she dies. She spoke to her children, who wanted to stay with Stephanie. Beth told Stephanie about her children’s wishes. She agreed to talk to her husband about it.
It didn’t take long for the Culleys to make a decision regarding Beth’s children. “God had a plan. I always wondered why I built my house this big,” Stephanie said.
During the first part of April, Beth was admitted to the hospital. All of Beth’s children – Will, 15; Selena, 14; Jaxon, 11; Dallas, 10; Lily, 5 and Ace, who turns 2 in a few days – moved in with Stephanie.
Beth lost her fight to cancer on Thursday. Stephanie said that she is determined to keep Beth’s memory alive while “making new ones together as a family.”
Today, a GoFundMe page has been set up to help Beth’s children. There will also be a benefit to be held on June 25 in Constitution Square, Downtown South Boston. If you are interested to make a donation to Beth’s kids, you can contact Kathy Woods at 579-2776, or send donations to P.O. Box 1661 South Boston, Va. 24592.
After becoming the mother of nine kids, Stephanie said that she’s taking things one day at a time. “I want to thank every one of you that has shown your love and supported Beth and her family during this time.”
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