LIVING THE AMERICAN DREAM
Is it possible to develop an addiction at Kirby Pines? “Yes,” admits JoAnn Ginn. “I have become addicted to having fun: playing games, and especially playing mahjong with such a fun-loving and intelligent group of Christian women.”
Fortunate enough to have had a happy and supportive life as a child and an adult, JoAnn was pre-conditioned to the life she now enjoys at Kirby Pines. This is her story in achieving the American dream.
JoAnn Godwin was born in the small, neighboring community of Fisherville, Tennessee. Her father was one of seven siblings who were given family land to build their homes. As a result, JoAnn acquired many cousins who were like siblings because of their proximity and time they spent together. “We all attended the Baptist church there,” according to JoAnn, “and many of our activities centered on church.” JoAnn was the oldest of three other children in her family: two sisters and one brother. As the oldest, JoAnn said she took charge, “But they didn’t always appreciate my ‘bossiness,’ ” she admits. “Like most country people, we always had plenty to eat, but sadly,” Joann remembers, “sometimes we had our ‘pets’ for dinner!”
Christmas was always an exciting time. According to JoAnn, “Christmas was much simpler then. We cut our tree from our land and searched Sears Roebuck catalogue for our wishes. We would have very few gifts under the tree, but we always had Santa because of the younger kids. Christmas was special because we only got gifts on birthdays and Christmas.”
For high school, JoAnn attended the one in Collierville. Once again, the class was small, and everyone enjoyed being together. JoAnn was involved in several clubs and was editor of the year book her senior year.
Graduating from high school in 1958, JoAnn enrolled in Union University in Jackson, Tennessee. She admits, “I was there for two years but traded my degree for a Mrs.” She married John Ginn whom she met when she was a freshman. John had enrolled at Union with a scholarship in Track.
After their marriage, JoAnn and John moved to Memphis which became their permanent home, although they would spend time in other cities when John was transferred. John had found employment with General Foods Corporation, starting in a minimal paying job. He would eventually become manager of the Memphis branch as well as other locations.
However, as JoAnn and John welcomed their four children- Donna, Bobby, David and Phillip- JoAnn became mostly a stay-at-home mom. “This was a wonderful time in my life. I loved being a mom”.
After the children were grown, JoAnn took the opportunity to travel with John and visit the various sights in the cities he visited. John’s last transfer was to Chicago, Illinois, where he retired after two years, and he and JoAnn returned to Memphis. “I was so glad to leave there,” says JoAnn. “I was afraid I was going to freeze to death!”
With retirement, JoAnn and John were able to spend time with family, which includes seven grandchildren and four great-grandchildren, and the opportunity to do the things they felt called to do. In addition to extensive travel and cruises, JoAnn and John were able to extend their missionary work to China and Turkey. According to JoAnn, “Our faith was at the center of our marriage. John and I had always been involved in church and community work wherever we lived and were needed.”
Retirement also allowed time for hobbies. JoAnn chose art work, and John loved restoring old cars. “As a matter of fact,” says JoAnn, “restoring cars became a family affair. It was not unusual to find both of us lying under a car pulling out a motor or putting on brake liners. Surprisingly, most of the time, we agreed on what we were doing.”
In 2017, JoAnn had heart by-pass surgery and was hospitalized for three months due to complications. In 2018, JoAnn and John began thinking of finding a place with few home responsibilities as well as a place where they would always be together. They had heard about Kirby Pines and made an appointment to learn about Life Care. “We had no intention of making a decision that day,” says JoAnn, “but after our visit, we signed a contract immediately. Unbelievably, we sold our house, had an estate sale, and moved to Kirby Pines in less than a month!”
JoAnn says that Kirby Pines felt like home immediately. “Everyone seems to truly care about and help each other,” says JoAnn, “and there are more activities than you can possibly participate in.” JoAnn had the opportunity to experience the caring at Kirby when John became ill and died in January 2021. “Those were difficult days,” remembers JoAnn. “I had my family, along with church and Kirby families, to support me. It is a comfort to my family to know that I am in a safe place doing the things I love to do.” Those things include an assortment of card games, working in Michael’s Gift Shop, and participating in Kirby Theater productions.
When asked about her favorite Christmas, JoAnn, without hesitation, relates the story of a grandchild born in 1999 with only one-half a heart. Unexpectedly, in the second week of his life, a heart transplant became available on December 23rd, which saved his life. “Another Christmas miracle,” says JoAnn.”
Written by Joan Dodson, Resident of Kirby Pines.