IN MEMORY: Washington nurse touched thousands of lives

Published 8:01 pm Friday, February 5, 2016

DAILY NEWS REMEMBRANCE: Linda Alligood was an operating room nurse, a coach for her daughters’ sports teams, a woman of strong faith, a loving mother and a loyal friend.

REMEMBRANCE: Linda Alligood was an operating room nurse, a coach for her daughters’ sports teams, a woman of strong faith, a loving mother and a loyal friend.

Linda Jo Tarkington Alligood, 51, was one of those people who touched the lives of many, even if she didn’t know it.

Not only that, she was a woman of many talents: a top-of-the-line operating room nurse, an involved church member, a rec ball coach and supporter in the stands, a fiercely loving mother and loyal friend.

Her life came to a tragic end on Jan. 15 when she was killed in a car accident on Slatestone Road in Washington in the early morning.

The tragedy has left a gaping hole in the community, leaving those who knew and loved her with the question, “What now?”

Born in Dallas, Texas, on Aug. 24, 1964, Alligood moved to Beaufort County and graduated from Bath High School in 1982. She graduated from Beaufort County Community College in 1984.

Alligood had three daughters: Casey, 25, Britney, 21, and Kendall, 18, all of whom were the center of her life. She also left behind a husband, Joseph, of more than 30 years.

Alligood was an OR nurse at Vidant Beaufort Hospital for more than 30 years, specializing in orthopedics, and was undoubtedly one of the best in her field. The high-stress environment can scare some nurses away, but it was right were she needed to be, according to coworker and longtime friend Samantha Beecham.

She knew what the surgeons needed before they even knew they needed it, and the surgeons trusted her judgment, Beecham said.

Alligood took Beecham, a new nurse, under her wing in 1997 and encouraged her to stick with “scrubbing,” the term for helping the doctors in the OR. It’s an intimidating job for any nurse, but especially one fresh out of nursing school.

But Alligood knew the ins and outs, including the uses for some of the most obscure equipment one could imagine. More importantly, she believed in Beecham.

“We laughed a lot. She made it, even on the worst day, the best,” Beecham said. “Every morning she said, ‘Good morning, beautiful,” and smiled that sweet smile. … She made everybody feel like a member of the family.”

One of Beecham’s favorite memories of her friend is how she used to write down absolutely everything on a calendar. One year, Beecham happened to see an odd note scribbled in the month of December: “Celebrate Christmas.”

Beecham said she laughed so hard at that note and how strange it seemed to write something like that on one’s calendar. She never let Alligood forget it, either. They laughed about it for years afterward.

Jennifer Mitchell, another coworker and friend, said it was that laughter which got them through the day sometimes.

Alligood was an incredibly loyal friend and was always the person to count on.

“Every time we talked it was like we had never stopped talking,” Beecham recalled. “I knew if I needed something, if she was not at a ballgame, she’d be there.”

Work was only one facet of Alligood’s life.

Her girls were the loves of her life. Alligood spent hours coaching her daughters’ volleyball, basketball and softball teams, and she was a proud mother in the stands.

Alligood never missed a game, according to her daughter Britney, and the girls remember many a night spent in their mom’s suburban — “the tank” — while traveling for games.

“She was very selfless. She always did everything for us,” Britney Alligood said. “I feel like she just wanted to be involved with us.”

The girls’ dad worked in construction and was often away on jobs, so it was their mom raising the children.

“He wasn’t mom and he wasn’t always there with us,” Britney Alligood said. “I’ve really realized, like mom really raised us by herself.”

Part of raising her daughters included taking them to church every week, usually multiple times, and instilling a strong foundation of faith.

“She was very adamant in taking us to church every Sunday. There was really no excuse that we could (use to) get out of church,” Britney Alligood said.

She said her mother also directed and organized the Easter Panorama for their church, Beaver Dam Church of Christ, each year. Being detail-oriented, Alligood organized set building and costume designing to a tee and wanted to make each panorama better than the last. She was the same way with Vacation Bible School, too.

Mitchell said her children looked forward to Bible School with Alligood.

“Luckily, I had the privilege of knowing her outside of work, too,” Mitchell said. “They loved being in Mrs. Linda’s class.”

“She believed in Christ like I’ve never really seen someone believe in Christ before,” Britney Alligood said. “You never really understand it until you see it happen in your life.”

She said all of the girls were raised to put Jesus first, and Alligood would always remind them of how it important it is to live a life of faith. Because of her strong Christian faith, she was also one of the most optimistic and positive people, according to Britney.

“I’m actually thankful that my mom raised me in a church home,” Britney Alligood said. “I’m thankful for it now because I see the importance of it.”

Linda Alligood’s daughters and coworkers also share another favorite memory: Linda’s use of “LOL.” The acronym is text message lingo for “laugh out loud,” but Alligood thought it stood for “lots of love.”

No matter, it remained “lots of love” in her book, and Alligood used to write small notes to her daughters when they went away to camp, signed “LOL.”

That “LOL” extended to everyone Alligood knew.

“She gave the absolute best hugs. If you felt so bad and sad, if she hugged you, you would not be sad anymore,” Beecham said.

Mitchell said the hospital is taking Alligood’s passing one day at a time, but they never want to forget the good memories.

“We talk about her, though, and laugh,” Mitchell said.

“She taught me everything I know about not only being an orthopedic nurse, but a friend,” Beecham added.

Her daughters are taking it one day at a time, as well, and are trying to cope with such a loss — the loss of a mother and a best friend.

“It’s very hard. It’s like we’re all living in a nightmare that we just haven’t kind of woken up from yet,” Britney Alligood said. “That is the hardest thing to grasp a hold of.”

Although she may not have known it, there was no one like Linda. Her life touched thousands of people, as evidenced by the seemingly endless line at her visitation at Paul Funeral Home in Washington.

But one thing is certain: her life and legacy will be remembered by those dearest to her, her friends and family, and in that way, her memory will continue to touch lives.