Resident Spotlight: Sally and John Coleman

A Christmas Story

The Christmas season is a special time for John and Sally Coleman. Their families always celebrated Christmas but in different ways. John’s grandparents hosted their family on Christmas Eve, and with eighteen grandchildren, the group eventually grew to 65-70! Sally’s family, however, believed that Thanksgiving was for eating and Christmas was for rejoicing. “There was always plenty of food for friends and family to ‘graze’ on, says Sally, “but Mother stayed out of the kitchen. I have followed her example!”

Several important events have taken place in John and Sally’s lives during the Christmas season: they met after a Christmas party, became engaged during the Christmas season and moved to Kirby Pines on December 28, 2018.

John’s life began on August 12, 1936 in Memphis, Whitehaven area. “At that time”, according to John, “Whitehaven was country. I lived among lakes and farmland.” John raised calves and slept with them at the Mid-South Fair. He had a worm farm, selling to fishermen. Not only was John industrious, he was a good student. He won science awards, ran track and worked as a “runner” for Mid-South Title Company. “I had to be good”, says John, “my mother was secretary of the school”. 

Following high school, John received a five-year scholarship to Rice University, graduating with a B.A. and B.S. in Engineering. He also received a Navy ROTC scholarship. During college summers, John served as Midshipman on Navy ships and enjoyed the travel. He continued with the Navy for three years, ranking as Lieutenant, Jr. Grade at discharge in 1962. 

Sally (nee Cross) was also born in Memphis and “into a wonderful family” on March 22, 1939. Sally says, “I had a great time at Messick and St. Luke’s Methodist Church. I loved math and debating. I became a ‘talker’ at an early age!” Involved in many school activities such as Student Council and Honor Society, her greatest award was being selected the first “Teenager of the Year” by The Press Scimiter, a Memphis newspaper. She won a trip to New York and Washington which ‘whetted’ her appetite for travel!

Following high school, Sally attended Southwestern College (now Rhodes). “It was a fun time with studying thrown in” says Sally. She was active in many organizations, including AOPi, graduating with a major in English and a minor in Mathematics. She finished school in time to marry John after his first year of active duty in the Navy. 

Sally first met John in 1957 when he came to pick up his sister at Whitehaven Methodist Church Parsonage. John was home for Christmas during his fourth year at Rice. Sally had been at a slumber party there and was waiting for a ride home. John offered to drive her home and Sally accepted. 

Sally and John Coleman

The next summer, John called Sally for a date and after dating for some time, John asked Sally to his family’s Christmas gathering. When it came time to have a group picture made, Sally first declined. Then, one of John’s uncles said, “Sally, you need to be in the picture because you are going to marry John and be in our family”. So, she did and they were married on August 26, 1960. They have two sons, Jack and Tommy and one granddaughter, Lilly. 

While in the service, John was stationed in California and Washington State. Sally taught school and they traveled extensively along the West Coast. Also, away from family, Sally says “that it was a great opportunity for them to bond”. They decided to spend their first Christmas alone with Sally cooking. According to John, “Sally went to the grocery store but came home crying”. It seems that the turkeys weighed 20 lbs. and were frozen! So, John saved the day by taking them to Disneyland for dinner. 

Following discharge from the Navy, the couple “happily” returned to Memphis. John started his thirty-year career with Dupont. After seven years, John was transferred to the corporate office in Wilmington, Delaware. The years there were “truly great”, according to Sally. “We had wonderful friends, a spiritually strong church and many wonderful experiences. We played golf and bridge and traveled with friends and family. We benefited from being so close to historical sites.” Sally continued to teach math in an independent school for thirteen years. 

Both John and Sally retired in 1994, John retiring as Corporate Environmental Manager. At that time, Dupont had a Safety and Environmental Consulting Service and John continued part time as a Senior Consultant for six more years. John and Sally became very involved in volunteer work with several community agencies, especially the Pink Palace and their crafts fair. Sally was treasurer and board member for Woman’s Exchange. John became a board member for the Durham Foundation and Alzheimer’s Day Service. He served both along with volunteering for the FedEx-St. Jude Gold tournament for twenty years. He also held membership in the Optimist and Engineer’s Clubs. Both became active in Emmanuel Methodist Church, Sally teaching Bible study for fifteen years. During these years, they traveled extensively, France and Egypt being their favorites. 

John and Sally, along with their beloved rescue dog Louie, moved to Kirby Pines as a “Christmas gift to their children”. They love water aerobics, dancing, trivia and the movies. John reads mystery novels and plays golf, having made three holes in one! Sally assists with Vespers and volunteers in The Blossom shop. According to both, “Kirby Pines is the place to be!”

This Christmas for John and Sally will be different but they will be with some of their family. They wish for all staff and residents of Kirby Pines a “MERRY CHRISTMAS AND A HAPPIER NEW YEAR”!

Written by Joan Dodson, Resident, Kirby Pines