Resident Spotlight: Donna Griffin & Merry LeShane


Donna Griffin & Merry Le Shane


Love is a relationship that we all experience in some form and at some level throughout our lives. There are different types of love: one being the special love or bond between the siblings of a family. Margaret Mead, the anthropologist wrote “sister is probably the most competitive relationship within the family, but once the sisters are grown, it becomes the strongest relationship.”

Someone else has said that “growing up with a sister can be trying at times. They get into your stuff, can be weird and troublesome-but having a sister means you have a friend for life. They will always be there for you, no matter the circumstances”.

Such could describe the sisters, Merry LeShane and Donna Griffin. Although there is a 12-year difference in their ages, that acorn of bonding planted in early life has grown to an oak-sized love for one another as they have matured. This is their story.

Merry and Donna were born in Memphis and into a family experiencing the trying times of the depression years. The parents understood hard work but considered a high school education as sufficient for life. Girls were expected to get married after graduation from high school and create their own families. This is what Merry and Donna did. Merry married and moved to Miami. She had one son. Donna married and stayed in Memphis. She has 2 daughters and 4 grandsons.

However, both Merry and Donna had higher ambitions. Merry graduated from the University of Miami with a B.S. and Masters in Education and Counseling and worked 25 years with the Miami Public School System. Donna waited until her daughters were in school and fulfilled her dream of becoming a nurse. She spent most of her career in cardiovascular ICU at St. Francis Hospital. Donna says she loved taking care of patients and shunned any management positions. She was happy when her 2 daughters followed in her footsteps and became nurses as well.

Due to the age difference, Merry and Donna were not close growing up. With Merry living in Miami, their time together was infrequent. However, when Merry visited Memphis, she and Donna would spend an entire day at Goldsmiths Department Store. There were also retreats when Donna visited Merry in the cabin she owned in Blue Ridge, GA. Donna recalls that these visits occurred 2 or 3 times a year and they just enjoyed getting to know each other and having lots of fun.

Merry Holding Donna - 1943
Merry Holding Donna – 1943

When Merry and Donna’s parents became older and besieged with health problems, it fell upon Donna to be their caregiver. Although frequent phone calls kept Merry in the loop, she felt she was needed to help with her parent’s care. So, in 1997, she retired from teaching snd moved back to Memphis. “Merry was such a blessing as I still had a family and a full-time job. We divided up the needs. I continued with their medical care and Merry with their finances” recalls Donna.

Merry has loved to dance since the age of 5. When she moved back to Memphis, she joined the McWherter’s “Steppin’ Out Dancers”, dancing with the group for 18 years and until her back said “no more”. Merry was accepted as a close family member by Donna’s children. When Merry’s son died unexpectedly in 2014, Donna’s sons-in-law took vacation time to go to Miami to take care of his estate, arriving back in Memphis with a big bird, a McCaw named Paco in tow.

Merry and Donna began their research on retirement communities when their parents began having severe health problems. They found care to be extremely fragmented and expensive. Merry had attended several events at Kirby Pines and learned about Life Care offered to all residents. When Donna’s husband, Jim, began showing signs of dementia, they both decided that Kirby was the right choice for them. Merry moved to Kirby in September, 2017. Donna and her husband, Jim moved in 2 weeks later. Because of Jim’s declining health, he had experiences with Job’s Way, Rehabilitation Unit and eventually Hospice. Donna says, “we were able to visit and stay in the room with him from 6 a.m. to 10 p.m. and he received excellent care in all 3 areas”.

Both Merry and Donna are very involved in activities at Kirby. Merry volunteers in the Blossom Shop and attends the Book Baggers. “She has cared for everybody’s dog or cat in I Wing”, says Donna. Donna is currently serving on the Advisory Committee, loves line dancing, enjoys the exercising opportunities and the Book Baggers. You can see them in the Bistro having breakfast together or eating at the same table in the dining room at night. They are almost inseparable as they go to the same hairdresser, nail salon, doctor and grocery store.

The love these 2 sisters have for each other and others is apparent. Their positive attitudes and friendly dispositions represent the caring and love available to each of us as members of the Kirby family.

Written by Joan Dodson, Resident, Kirby Pines