JACKSON, TENNESSEE —
A West Tennessee woman who was Elvis Presley's private nurse is releasing a book about her life around the music legend and his family.
Letetia Henley Kirk lived on the grounds of Graceland - Presley's longtime Memphis home - with her husband and two young daughters from 1972 to 1983 and often traveled with Presley on tour, The Jackson Sun reported.
Her self-published book, titled “Taking Care of Elvis - Memories with Elvis as His Private Nurse and Friend,” is a collection of short stories. It also includes dozens of previously unpublished photos.
“He was not only my patient but a good friend,” said the 73-year-old Kirk, who planned to release the book Monday.
For nearly 40 years, she kept silent about her years with Presley. But Kirk said she changed her mind after a friend convinced her to attend an event during Elvis Week last August in Memphis.
She talked to many of the fans who descend on Graceland each year to commemorate the death of Presley on August 16, 1977, at the age of 42.
“I realized how hungry the fans are for stories about what life was like during a normal day at Graceland,” Kirk 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. That's what this book is, light-hearted stories of my memories and experiences with Elvis.”
'Very blessed country girl'
Kirk was hired at The Medical Group in Memphis where she worked for 40 years. She met Presley in 1968 when he came to the clinic for treatment of saddle sores from riding horses.
“We treated him after hours, and he saw Dr. Nick,” Kirk said, referring to Dr. George Nichopoulos. “I was in the room assessing Elvis, and he was sitting in the corner talking to me with his head down.”
“I walked over, lifted his chin and said, ‘Elvis, if you talk to me, you look at me.’”
She thought she was in trouble when Nichopoulos called her to his office and, with a solemn look on his face, asked what she said to Presley. When she told the doctor, he grinned and said Presley liked her country ways.
She became Presley's regular nurse when he came to the clinic, and that led to her move to Graceland in 1972.
Kirk recalled working at the clinic on August 16, 1977, when her husband called and told her to “get home quick.” She jumped in her car and soon saw the ambulance as it raced Presley to the hospital. She drove through the front gate of Graceland and learned what happened.
“I was in total disbelief,” Kirk said. “I never dreamed something like that would happen. I still get emotional about it, and the book was very hard to write because of that emotional journey.”
But Kirk said the light-hearted stories in the book kept her spirit lifted, such as the ones about gifts she received from Presley, including how she turned down a black Cadillac.
“Elvis was extremely generous and just loved to make people happy,” she said. “I was a very blessed country girl.”