Resident Spotlight: Sydney Wagner

Sydney Wagner

A Ministry of Love

An email arrives announcing that a resident of Kirby Pines has fallen or become ill. A request is made for prayers for the individual and his or her family. Eventually, another email arrives giving an update on the resident’s condition and location as well as a request for continued prayers and cards.

These emails go out from the email “tree” of Sydney Wagner to approximately 120 residents of Kirby Pines. Much of the information is given to Sydney by other residents; however, she follows up on information with personal visits or phone calls before sending out the updated information.

While honoring the privacy of the individual, Sydney believes “the more we know about each other, the more we will care and love each other”. She also believes the scripture that teaches, “The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much” (James 5:16). Her personal experiences in battling cancer 12 years ago and recently caring for her husband, Shelton during his terminal illness, have re-enforced with Sydney an awareness of the comfort brought to individuals and families when prayers are “showered” on them when they are needed most.

When did this ministry begin? While her mother was a six years resident of Applingwood Health Facility, Sydney and her sister wrote a monthly newsletter which was sent to all families and featured a write-up of a resident in each issue. While attending Highland Street Church of Christ, Sydney did a weekly newsletter for her Bible class and continued that at Germantown Church of Christ, until recently.

Sydney and her husband Shelton
Wedding Day, August 1962

When Sydney and her husband Shelton moved to Kirby Pines in 2014, she had a desire to keep up with old and new friends and to learn more about them. So, she started sending messages to a few. Word spread and residents began requesting to be on her email list.
Sydney’s earlier life could be considered ideal and normal. She had a happy childhood, growing up on a farm with one brother and one sister. In addition to her parents and siblings, Sydney had a nanny whom she loved very much and was also fortunate to get to share a bedroom with her grandmother “who taught me everything I know”.

Sydney Juan Carmack was born in a hospital in Brownsville, Tennessee, on August 10, 1939. She was the first of three children born to Sidney and Juantena Carmack of Dry Hill, a community near Ripley, Tennessee. Her father was determined to name their first born for both parents. To his delight, the baby was a girl, but it was necessary to change the spelling of his name for her.

The little girl grew up and became an overachiever in Ripley High School. Sydney learned to play the trumpet, was a cheerleader for three years, and was co-editor of the school newspaper. To this day, she maintains contact with grammar and high school friends.

Following high school, Sydney attended Memphis School of Commerce, then worked six years for American Surety Company. But alas, she met the love of her life, Shelton Wagner. They were married on August 25, 1962. Almost two years later Wendy Leigh was born and 18 months later, Shelton Allen, Jr. completed their family. Shelton started his own business in drafting and this was continued for 40 years. During that time, Sydney supported the business by being the bookkeeper and courier.

In 1975, the family moved to East Memphis so it would be convenient for the children to attend Harding schools. The home was located in a cove and in Sydney’s opinion, they had “the best neighbors in the world”. There were frequent cove parties which added to their friendships. She recently was invited back to one of the parties and enjoyed seeing the small children, many now grown.

Throughout their marriage, Sydney and Shelton enjoyed traveling, seeing most of Europe, Canada and Mexico and all the states, except Hawaii. One of their three trips to Alaska was for two months with three other couples, traveling in two motor homes. The most fun they shared was taking each of their six grandchildren, at age 13, for a one week visit to a location of their choice in the U.S. Their choices were Alaska(2), New York City, Jackson Hole, Wyoming, Boston and the Grand Canyon.

Sydney believes that the second smartest thing she and Shelton ever did was to make the decision to move to Kirby Pines – the first was their accepting Jesus Christ as their Savior. She has made many wonderful new friends and gotten to know her old friends better. She enjoys the entertainment and all amenities provided at Kirby Pines. Her hobbies are reading, writing, photography, playing mahjong, and making her greeting cards to send out to others each month.

The “ministry of love” Sydney provides through her emails, newsletter and cards, her friendly and approachable personality make her an invaluable asset to our Kirby Pines family. Thank you, Sydney for keeping us informed about each other and for making Kirby Pines a more loving place.

Written by Joan Dodson, Kirby Pines Resident