A Love for Others
Was she “heaven sent” or our good fortune when Genenne Wilson chose to make Kirby Pines her forever home? Her enthusiasm and willingness to help others are the hallmarks which indicate her love and concern for others. Genenne believes that growing up on a farm and the influence of her parents have given her a moral standard, a strong work ethic as well as an understanding of working together. Her love for animals and others, Genenne further believes, comes from her early influences.
Genenne’s family lived on a dairy farm in the beautiful mountains of Western North Carolina near the small town of Bakersville which is at the foot of Roan Mountain. She joined two brothers to complete the family on September 17, 1952. As anyone who has lived on a farm knows, an enormous amount of work is necessary to keep everything productive. Genenne’s life was no exception. “I not only had farm jobs, I had to help with the gardening, food preservation and housework. My favorite job was taking care of the calves”, says Genenne. Her favorite pastime was pretending she was a cowgirl while riding her horse or hiking the beautiful mountains.
Following her sophomore year in high school, the farm was sold and the family moved to Asheville, NC. Moving from a high school which had a total enrollment under 500 to a school where there were over 500 in her class was overwhelming for Genenne. She missed her farm life! Despite this, she graduated as Valedictorian of her class in 1970 and was accepted to North Carolina State University and The University of North Carolina. However, she chose to attend Berea College in Kentucky because it was smaller and a family tradition. She graduated in 1973 with a B.S. in Counseling.
Genenne then began her career in the mental health field. She first worked in a psychiatric hospital in Asheville but was soon offered a job with the State of Tennessee. So, in 1975, Genenne moved to Memphis and began work with the Child Protection Agency then transferring to Mid-town Mental Health Center where she was a consultant with psychiatric referrals. She held this position until 1988. During this time, she earned a Masters Degree in Social Work at University of Tennessee, Memphis as well as developing two mental health programs for Memphis/Shelby County. This work was adopted by other cities and states.
Taking a break from mental health, Genenne bought a farm in Hernando, Mississippi. “I have always loved animals and people. I just had to add animals back in my life!” She had every kind of farm animal but her focus for some time was raising over 250 pedigreed racing pigeons which were used at military and wedding events. She also raised and showed Shar Pei dogs in confirmation and obedience competitions. Because of her “animal knowledge” she was convinced to work part-time for her Veterinarian. For several years she was the only person providing water fowl rehabilitation in the tri-state area. Genenne became a member of Baker’s Chapel United Methodist Church when she moved to Hernando.
In 1998, at age 46, Genenne married “Captain” Phil McGee. According to Genenne, “Phil was a wonderful musician and played several instruments. He gave solo as well as band performances”. In 2001, Genenne’s parents moved to Hernando to live with them. Unfortunately, she lost all of her significant others during a short period of time. Her father died in 2011, her mother in 2012. In 2014, her husband Phil died of complications from diabetes. Despite the losses and a treatable period of depression, Genenne says that being a caregiver to her parents was the most rewarding thing that she has ever done.
In August of 2019, Genenne moved to Kirby Pines. She admits, “friends questioned my move because they thought I was too young to move here. I had no family left and I knew that at Kirby Pines I could enjoy retirement with all the activities and friendships that make Kirby Pines such a special place. I can no longer say I have no family because the residents here have become my family—this is my heaven on earth!”
In moving to Kirby Pines, Genenne selected a two-bedroom apartment. It is not a rumor-one bedroom was for her two Boston Terriers, Colonel Pete and Mazie Grace. One closet contains their outfits and the floor space is a regular playground with a tee-pee and assortment of toys. The dogs are dressed in appropriate attire for every special occasion, even making an appearance on a Ham’ateur program. Sadly, Colonel Pete passed away in Genenne in First Grade November, 2020. According to Genenne, “it was so heartwarming and comforting to have the love and understanding shown to me at this time-this truly is my family!”
Soon after her move to Kirby, Genenne involved herself in the activities here. She has been Mrs. Santa Claus on several occasions. She volunteered to restart the Rhythm Band but that has been delayed. Anyone who knows Genenne knows that she is always glad to care for dogs when needed by owners. She is also known for her compassion in caring for her neighbors who are experiencing a health crisis, even moving them into her apartment until recovery. “I am happiest when I can help others, spend time with animals and make people laugh.”
Thank you Genenne, you have brought a special gift to Kirby Pines!
Written by Joan Dodson, Resident, Kirby Pines