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Taking Care Of Elvis

August 12, 2015 | Book

For 38 years, Letetia Henley Kirk kept silent about her years with Elvis Presley. That changes Monday when she releases her book, Taking Care of Elvis … Memories with Elvis as His Private Nurse and Friend.

She lived on the grounds at Graceland, Elvis’ home, with her husband and two young daughters from 1972 until 1983 and often traveled with Elvis on tour. The book is a collection of short stories about her life around Elvis and his family and includes dozens of previously unpublished photos.

“He was not only my patient but a good friend,” said Kirk, who is 73. “That’s why I didn’t want to write a book all these years. I felt like he wouldn’t have written a book about me if it had been the other way around.” 

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, especially the Europeans, who descend on Graceland each year to commemorate the death of Elvis on Aug. 16, 1977. “I realized how hungry the fans are for stories about what life was like during a normal day at Graceland,” Kirk said by phone Wednesday. “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.”

She was hired at The Medical Group in Memphis, where she worked for 40 years. About 1968 she met Elvis when he came to the clinic for treatment of saddle sores from riding horses. She became his regular nurse when Elvis came to the clinic, and that led to her move to Graceland in 1972.

“Elvis said he would put a trailer behind Graceland for me and my family to live in so I could take care of him and his daddy and grandmother,” Kirk said. “I told him I wasn’t going to be trailer trash for nobody. So he hired my husband, Tommy Henley, to do security and take care of the grounds and keep his toys running. Elvis had his way of getting what he wanted, and I’m glad he did.”

Letetia was working at the clinic on Aug. 16, 1977 when her husband called and told her to “get home quick.” She jumped in her car and saw the ambulance on Elvis Presley Boulevard as it raced Elvis to the hospital. She drove through the front gate of Graceland and learned what happened. Elvis was dead at age 42.

“I was in total disbelief,” she said. “I never dreamed something like that would happen. I was worried because Lisa was there. It was horrific for days. I still get emotional about it, and the book was very hard to write because of that emotional journey.”

She said major publishers wanted her story but insisted on using ghostwriters to produce the book. She didn’t trust them. So she wrote the stories, and her sister-in-law typed them. She chose to self publish in Memphis with Wimmer, a division of Mercury Printing Co.