Resident Spotlight: John Travis Thornton


John Travis Thornton

During the month of November, one day is designated to honor the men and women who served in our Armed Forces. We are blessed and grateful every day for the freedom we enjoy because of their valiant service. One of the many Veterans living at Kirby Pines is John Travis Thornton. In addition to serving his country during war time, Travis devoted his professional life to teaching and leading in various educational positions.

A true Mississippian, Travis was born, educated and employed in Mississippi his entire life. The only exceptions are his service time and since his move to Kirby Pines in 2020. 

Born in Kosciusko, MS in 1933, Travis was the third child in the family with two older brothers. “We had good times and tough times together,” admits Travis. “I was constantly told, ’you’re not old enough-maybe next year’”. Travis says his early school years were uneventful. Because his father was retired from the Marine Corps, he learned geography from large maps his father posted on their walls outlining battle zones during the Second World War. During his junior and senior high school years, Travis played trombone in the band and had the male lead part in the school play “Smarty Pants”.

Following high school, Travis enrolled in pre-pharmacy courses in college. However, he changed his mind when he realized he was required to pass chemistry! He considered dropping out of college, but, the other option was to become part of the family dairy business. He decided to return to college and graduated in 1954 from Delta State University with a B.S. in Education (major: Math). 

Travis’ plan was to teach mathematics in high school. He knew it would be difficult to find a job because of the Korean War, as he was eligible to be drafted at any time. Rather than wait, Travis volunteered to have his name moved to the top of the draft list. He completed college on Friday and reported for induction into the Army on the following Monday. He was offered an opportunity to attend Officers Training School but elected to remain in basic training at Fort Jackson, South Carolina. His advanced training was in Ordinance Supply Parts Identification. Expecting to be sent to Korea, Travis was fortunately assigned to Innsbruck, Austria. This assignment allowed him to see this beautiful country with the snow-capped mountains, a “far cry” from the landscape of Northern Mississippi! He was later transferred to the Technical Staff Office near Pisa, Italy and actually climbed the famous tower there. “It was leaning before I got there”, laughs Travis. Off duty time allowed him to visit many places in Europe while stationed there. Travis was often questioned about why his hometown’s name was of Polish origin. He says he always replied “With other Mississippi names like Hot Coffee, Possum Neck, and Why-Not, it was not that unusual!”

Following his discharge from the Army in 1956, Travis returned to his beloved Mississippi to start his teaching career. From several offers, he chose Leland, Mississippi. According to Travis, “Leland is the greatest small town I have ever known. The students, parents and school were a great experience.” During summers, Travis attended Mississippi College and graduated with a Masters in Administration (Guidance and Counseling) in 1960. Following graduation, he became a Counselor in a Junior High School in Greenville. It was here that a wise Principal helped Travis to create a firm education philosophy. That being, “We are not just educating future doctors, lawyers and engineers, but rather preparing the students to be good citizens.” His progression in jobs continued from Counseling to becoming Principal at various schools, eventually being offered the position of Dean of Student Affairs at Mississippi Delta Community College, a position he held for nineteen years. Of his time there, Travis says that a more appropriate job description for conducting student affairs for the 17 to 21 age group was “wildlife management”!

A position of Dean became available at a branch campus of Copiah-Lincoln Community College in Natchez. Taking on this job had many challenges. There was low enrollment and classes were held in a vacant elementary school. During his six years there, Travis increased the enrollment by 400% and successfully managed to get a new academic building.

While Travis was teaching in Greenville, he fell in love with another teacher, Jenny Smith. They married in 1963 and nine years later, had their only child, Robert. Following his retirement from teaching at the Natchez campus, the family moved to Houston, Mississippi, Jenny’s hometown. Not to be idle, Travis had a wonderful experience helping with tours to parts of Mississippi, including beautiful Natchez. Travis and Jenny lived in Houston twenty-four years until her death in 2020. 

Following Jenny’s death, son Robert encouraged Travis to move to Memphis to be closer to him. After investigating several places, they chose Kirby Pines. “I moved here in July of 2020 to be free of most duties and responsibilities of keeping up a home,” says Travis. He has continued to be active, enjoying bridge, poker, exercise classes, the Poetry Club and walking his neighbor’s dog. He regularly attends the Sunday morning church services. “The most wonderful thing here at Kirby Pines”, says Travis, “is our library. Because of COVID restrictions when I moved in, it was vital to me in making the transition and to feel like Kirby Pines is now my home.” 

Wrtten by Joan Dodson, Resident, Kirby Pines

Resident Spotlight: Curt & Peggy Wilson


Peggy and Curt Wilson’s home is filled with objects of their creative talents. Some of the beautiful furniture was made by Curt; the wall hangings and table runner are a sample of Peggy’s quilting art. How did these two meet and decide to build a life together?

Peggy Jo Dick was born in Kettering, Ohio, on June 18, 1950. Peggy, who has an older brother, says they were blessed to be raised in a stable home by loving parents, and that, “Growing up in a small town had many advantages. I have many wonderful childhood memories of exploring woods with friends, and sledding in the winter months”.

Graduating from high school in 1968, Peggy married and moved to Beckley, West Virginia. Eventually, she enrolled in Concord College in Athens, West Virginia and made the fifty-mile commute to graduate in 1981 with a B.S. in Business, Accounting major. She completed requirements for a CPA Certificate in 1985 while working for a CPA firm. She soon moved to Atlanta where most of her career was spent in financial reporting for HMO management companies.

After a divorce in 2000, Peggy moved to Memphis to be near her brother and his family. She continued her work with HMO’s (Omnicare). Active in the church choir, Peggy was encouraged to join the Rhodes Master Singers, a community chorus sponsored by Rhodes College. “This was a great musical and social experience”, says Peggy. “We toured Italy in 2007 and my favorite concert was in a cathedral. We surrounded the pews and sang to the people who were sitting there and praying. I’ll never forget that experience!

In December of 2007, Peggy met Curt Wilson on a blind date arranged by a mutual friend. They fell in love and married on September 27th, 2008, recently celebrating their thirteenth anniversary.

John Curtis Wilson (Curt) was born August 3, 1946 in Greenville, Mississippi. For the first three years of his life, his family, including an older sister, lived in Richmond, Virginia while his father attended seminary school. “You might say I have been a life-long Presbyterian”, says Curt. Primarily, Curt and his family lived in Mississippi and Louisiana where his father had pastorates. This allowed Curt to be close to his extended family, especially his grandmother who owned a farm near Leland, MS. There, one summer, Curt and his cousin bought and trained horses, and, an uncle offered them a calf to start a cattle business. They arrived to pick up the calf in Curt’s Volkswagen. According to Curt, “The calf was a little nervous. I think it was her first ride in a Volkswagen!” Needless to say, the car needed heavy-duty cleaning before being driven again. Curt graduated high school in 1964 while living in Bossier City, Louisiana. 

Following high school, Curt attended Southwestern (Rhodes)College one year, then transferred to Louisiana Polytechnic Institute, graduating with a B.A. in Psychology in 1968. Curt then served in the U.S. Army until 1971. Entering as a private, he attended Officer Candidate School, ending his career as a First Lieutenant. During his service, Curt served as an Infantry Platoon Leader and as Battalion S-2 with the 101st Airborne Division in Vietnam. Following hismilitary service, Curt enrolled in Memphis State University andreceived a M.Ed (Counseling major) in 1975.

In 1970, Curt married Patti Fulmer. They moved to Memphis in 1972 and enjoyed thirty-six years together until her death in 2006. Curt spent twenty-six years employed with Shelby County Government, serving as Administrator of Pretrial Services, Deputy Director of the Division of Correction, and, the Administrator of the Probate Court Clerk’s Office. Curt also volunteered with Habitat for Humanity for more than twenty years where he supervised other volunteers. 

After Curt and Peggy married, it was necessary to combine their living situation, so they decided to renovate Curt’s house as it already had a woodworking shop and was much larger. Curt took on the job of remodeling. According to Peggy, “Curt and his crew did a beautiful job! I think the combining of our households prepared us for moving to Kirby Pines!”

After retirement in 2008, Peggy’s niece convinced her to try quilting. Neither had any experience and soon realized they needed to take a quilting course. “It was the best thing we ever did, especially since my niece said she did not even know how to read a ruler!” Peggy admits, “Quilting has turned into my passion and I spend many enjoyable hours making quilts.”

The Wilsons in 2008

Curt and Peggy chose to move to Kirby Pines because they have no children and knew they needed a plan for their future healthcare. “We realize that we moved in earlier than most residents, but I don’t understand why people wait so late to move here. Living at Kirby Pines is such an easy lifestyle. The residents here are so warm and welcoming and the staff does everything they can to make our lives easier. There are so many activities from which to choose.” Peggy has learned to play Mahjong, and bridge and is currently Secretary of the Advisory Committee. Curt’s hobbies include woodworking, gardening and tinkering with cars. He loves to tell everyone that Peggy’s sewing machine cost more than his (1977) Corvette!

Curt and Peggy are active members of Shady Grove Presbyterian Church. They walk regularly and you might see this delightful couple enjoying the beautiful grounds of Kirby Pines. 

Wrtten by Joan Dodson, Resident, Kirby Pines

Resident Spotlight: Betty Phillips, Ken Lewis, Lenora Smith & Jim Stafford


Thirty-eight years ago, the doors of Kirby Pines were opened to its first residents. Since then, thousands have made their home here. Four residents have agreed to share their experiences of living at Kirby Pines: 

BETTY PHILLIPS – Betty is the youngest of the group at age eighty-seven. Yet, she has lived here the longest – twenty-five years! Betty says that an offer for a free lunch resulted in her move to Kirby Pines on March 21, 1997, along with her husband John. 

After moving to Kirby Pines, Betty was a Wing Leader for five years. She soon became known for her baked “goodies”, especially peanut brittle. Caring for her husband John became a full time job until he passed away in 2016. She continues to frequently serve as a representative at the “Lighting of the Lake” ceremony. 

According to Betty, Kirby Pines was quite different when she and John moved in. Structurally, she remembers when the second floor of the main building was completed. She was the first person to descend the beautiful winding staircase that adorns the lobby. A picture of the event remains on the “King and Queen’s” table. According to Betty, “everything has continued to grow and improve to make this a better and more beautiful place to live”.
Today, Betty is thankful for her daughter, Sandy, and the employees of Caring In Place and Environmental Services for helping her remain in her apartment. “Kirby Pines is my home” states Betty, “and the people here are like my family”.

KEN LEWIS – According to Ken, “In 2007, as I was leaving my house, I noticed the grass had gotten tall, the weeds were having a holiday, and, the leaves had made my gutters their permanent home”. Ken realized he needed to get away from all these responsibilities. After researching a place to live, he decided that Kirby Pines was THE MOST. He moved in March 2008. 

Since moving to Kirby Pines, Ken has been “a cog in the wheel that keeps everything turning”. Perhaps, he is best known for the many times he has been “married” since moving to Kirby Pines. Being active in our Ham’ateur Club, Ken has been the groom in three mock weddings. When asked if he would like to marry again, his answer was “I don’t think so. They can’t find a woman who wants to marry a 99 year-old man!” 

Seriously, Ken has served us well in his thirteen years at Kirby Pines. He has been a member of the Advisory Committee, President of the Resident’s Association, and, was elected as King for one year. Line dancing, golfing and many activities are no longer possible. He currently attends the Men’s Christian Fellowship and keeps us all smiling with his wonderful sense of humor. 

LENORA VINER SMITH – Twenty-two years ago, at age seventy-two, Lenora made the decision to move to Kirby Pines to relieve her family of decisions later on. Always one who loved working in the soil, and moving from a home that had won many “Yard of the Month” awards, Lenora brought her gardening talents to help the beautiful sixty acres at Kirby Pines. On good weather days, one can find Lenora on her knees “playing” in her yard. “This is my therapy”, says Lenora. “I smile”, she recalls, “remembering the many times I have been on the ground pulling weeds and people driving by have rushed to help me, thinking I had fallen”. Recently, she was in the yard when the sprinklers came on. “They completely drenched me before I could get in the house. I now know the sprinkler schedule”! 

With only a small piece of land to care for, Lenora volunteered many hours and participated in many activities such as Line Dancing, Marketing events, the Blossom Shop and as a greeter for entertainment venues in the PAC. She was Queen for one year. She utilizes the Oasis and walks daily. 

Lenora’s proudest moments are when her great-grandsons and great-granddaughter come to Kirby Pines to perform on piano, cello and violin. The great-grandson has been performing here on piano since he was FOUR years old! He is now winning all kinds of awards. 

Lenora believes that living in a congregate environment leads to a more productive and longer life. “We are stimulated, supported, entertained and well-fed!” 

JIM STAFFORD – In his early life, Jim made four goals: go to college; own a business; have a family of his own, and, one day retire to a community with a larger family. Having accomplished all of these, Jim smiles and says, “Look where I am now!” 

Jim’s business, Memphis Wire and Iron Works, kept him working until a year ago. At age 93, Jim decided to finally retire. Work did not prevent Jim from participating in many activities for the twenty-two years he has lived at Kirby Pines. Line Dancing and ballroom dancing were his favorite things to do but he also volunteered for many activities. He has been a Wing Leader, President of the Resident’s Association and is currently serving as Chairman of the Advisory Committee, an assignment he has had for the past eight years. “I have really enjoyed everything I’ve done”. 

Jim and his wife, Arweda “Weda” moved to Kirby Pines in 1999. Sadly, “Weda” passed away in 2008. Two years later, Jim married Irma, a widow he had known for some time. Irma passed away in 2013. He says he is frequently asked why he doesn’t get married again. “I tell them no”, says Jim, “I don’t want to give up one of my closets!” I have many good friends here at Kirby and I hope the good Lord lets me stay around a little longer. It’s a great place to live.” 

Wrtten by Joan Dodson, Resident, Kirby Pines

Resident Spotlight: Richard & Arrena Cheek

A Recipe for Happiness

They were the same age and had known each other since elementary school. How could Richard make Arrena really notice him? The story unfolds:

Arrena Andrews was born in Columbia, Tennessee, the middle of three girls known as “The Andrews Sisters”. They actually sang on a local radio program! Her father was a physician and her mother was “into everything”. She was in the fourth grade when Richard moved with his family from a 96 acre farm in Pottsville, Tennessee, to Columbia mid-way his fifth grade. In Richard’s previous school, the decision was made for him to omit first grade because his mother, a teacher, had taught him at home. This decision was not ideal for Richard socially or physically as he remained the smallest boy in his class. In high school, the popular Arrena caught the eye of Richard and he asked her for a date. “After our one date, she ignored me”, says Richard. He adds, “As a senior in high school, I was five feet, two inches tall and weighed only 98 pounds”. Then, Richard went away to college and during his freshman year, grew twelve inches in height and gained to 135 pounds. When he returned to Columbia and Arrena spotted him at church, she asked, “is that the Cheek boy”? The rest is history.

Arrena had a very happy childhood and was known as a “tomboy” who loved to play “Roy Rogers and Dale Evans”. She and her family were active in the Presbyterian Church. She was a cheerleader in elementary school but chose to play saxophone in the band in high school. Following high school, Arrena entered Vanderbilt University and earned a B.A in Business. She was active in Chi Omega Sorority and continues in the Memphis Alumnae Chapter.

Richard obtained a B.S. in Chemical Engineering at The University of Tennessee, Knoxville as part of the Co-Op program with Monsanto Chemical Company in Columbia. During their college years, Richard often visited Arrena at Vanderbilt and romance was born. However, Richard decided to give up engineering, applied to University of Tennessee Medical School, and enrolled in September, 1961. Arrena was not pleased that Richard chose medicine over engineering. “I had always said that I would never marry a doctor. My family life had always centered around hospital visits and sick people.” Nevertheless, after five years of dating, their love for each other was secure. They were married in June, 1962, and made Memphis their home. While Richard was in medical school, Arrena taught school. They have two children, a son John, deceased, and a daughter Lucy who lives in Arizona. They have three grandchildren. 

young couple
Sigma Chi Ball 1958

Graduating from medical school in 1964, Richard was first in his class and was inducted into AOA Honorary Society. He chose John Gaston Hospital for his internship and declared a residency in general surgery. He achieved the rank of Chief Resident and completed his residency in 1970. He also served in the 330th General Hospital Unit of the Army Reserves, achieving rank of Captain. 

When Richard finished his residency, he joined the staff of the UT Department of Surgery and taught there until 1980. During this time he was part of the team that performed the first kidney transplant in Memphis. He also published several articles in medical journals, authored chapters in two surgical textbooks and authored a monograph of carcinoid tumors. In 1980, he left teaching to enter private practice. At Baptist Hospital, he performed the first laparoscopic cholecystectomy. He closed his private practice in 1997 but took a part-time teaching position at the Memphis VA Hospital until his complete retirement in 2005. 

For Richard, his skill at surgery was possibly due to his ability to work with his hands. He is an accomplished wood master, having made many things, such as violins. His other hobbies include fishing, reading, and playing pool. He loves to sing in choral groups and has been a member of the Entertainers Chorus, and, a frequent soloist since moving to Kirby. 

Arrena loves cooking, gardening, photography and reading. She has devoted much of her time to community activities such as Woman’s Exchange. She served as a core leader of the non-denominational Bible study group, Community Bible Study. “This was my priority” says Arrena. “I dearly loved studying with such knowledgeable ladies”. Both Arrena and Richard have been members of Christ Methodist Church since 1985. “We both love the church”, says Arrena. “We try to never miss a Sunday and we are committed to the Lamplighters Sunday School Class and the 11:00 service”, adds Richard. 

The Cheeks moved to Kirby Pines in 2017. They were familiar with several people who lived here and were anxious to downsize. “The people here are very special. They care for one another and step up when someone is in need. It is a great place to spend the last chapter of our lives and God has blessed us with this beautiful place”, agree both Arrena and Richard. 

Having a couple like the Cheeks, who are so talented, compassionate and friendly is what makes Kirby Pines the special place it is. Both Arrena and Richard agree that the following recipe is the foundation for their life: 

Recipe For Happiness – First: Serve God; Second: Remember decisions, not circumstances, determine the flavor of your lives; Third: Live each day so you’ll never be afraid of tomorrow, nor, ashamed of yesterday. 

Wrtten by Joan Dodson, Resident, Kirby Pines

Resident Spotlight: Lyle Hendrix

A Humble Servant

A life-long career that provided a unique service to the community, a father of two successful children and a life devoted to serving others and God are words that describe the life of Lyle Hendrix. His humble attitude reflects a man who is confident and comfortable with self. His early life, with many challenges, reminds us of what is so familiar to many: determination and hard work can provide a better life. 

Born in Gibson County, Tennessee in 1932, Lyle Hendrix was the last of six children born to parents who were farmers. Farming required that every hand available was given chores and being the last child provided few favors for Lyle. However, he recalls that one older sister became his second “mother” and he was somewhat spoiled by her. 

By the time Lyle was twelve years old, all the older children had left home and farming became impossible for the family. They moved to Trenton, Tennessee where his father was able to support the family as a trader of cattle. According to Lyle, “My Dad wanted me to stay out of trouble and he insisted I get a job delivering newspapers for the entire town. I had to fold the papers and learn to throw them, with either hand, from the street to the front porches.” This skill helped him become a member of the high school basketball team because he could shoot with both hands! While in high school, Lyle also started working in the meat department of the local grocery store on Saturdays. This experience would have a lasting impact on his life. 

United States Navy 1953

During Lyle’s senior year of high school, he was elected President of the Student Council. Soon after graduation in 1951, enrollment in business school proved impossible because of the hardships and complications it imposed. He left school, joined the Naval Reserve, and was soon called to active duty because of the Korean War. Because of his experience in working as a meat cutter, he was stationed at Bainbridge, Maryland as a Commissary Man-a fancy name for “cook”, according to Lyle. He was released from active duty in 1954 and promptly enrolled in an eight week course offered by National Meat cutters in Toledo, Ohio. 

Following school, Lyle moved to Memphis and became employed as an apprentice in the meat department of a small grocery store. The titles of various positions in the meat cutting industry are controlled by the Meat cutters Union; apprentice being the beginning position. 

Soon after moving to Memphis, Lyle began to attend gatherings of single young people from the local Churches of Christ. It was at these meetings that he became acquainted with a young lady name Oconee Henry. Their first date was to a movie at the Orpheum Theatre. After dating for six months, they married on February 26, 1956. Together they would have two children, a son and daughter. There are now four grandchildren and five great-grandchildren. Lyle remains very close to his family. 

Following marriage, Lyle realized that he would need to find better work. He moved to the meat department of Kroger and remained there, at various locations, for eleven years. He then worked for the Fred Montesi Stores for seventeen years, followed by sixteen years at the Piggly Wiggly Stores. He would become Manager of the Meat Department at all of these. 

In 2000, Lyle retired from meat cutting and took a part time position with White Station Church of Christ as Facilities Manager, caring for the building and grounds. The Church at White Station became an integral part of the Hendrix family when they purchased a house in the White Station area in 1958, and the family began worship there. According to Lyle, “although we enjoyed family camping, our social life revolved around church activities. We formed many great friendships that last until this day”. His wife, Oconee, taught a children’s Bible class for over forty years. Lyle had the daunting task of being an Elder of the Church for thirty-five years. Both Oconee and Lyle served on the Missions Committee and in that role, visited many missionaries in foreign countries and throughout the United States. 

In 2018, Lyle’s wife passed away after a long battle with an auto-immune disease, scleroderma. During her last three years of life, Lyle stopped all work to care for her. After her death, Lyle sold the house they had lived in for sixty years and moved to Kirby Pines in February, 2019. Lyle says, “I chose to move to Kirby Pines because of the LifeCare concept and so that my children would not have to worry about my safety and care”. Lyle also offers this, “I had friends who already lived at Kirby and they have helped greatly with my transition. I have made many new friends since moving here and treasure them very much. I have enjoyed living here! 

Lyle is a member of the Garden Club, and before COVID, was a part of the group that popped popcorn on Saturdays and distributed it to the Health Areas. Presently, Lyle serves as a greeter and facilitator for the 8:00 am Church of Christ services on Sunday morning. 

It has been said, “a deed is not a good deed unless it is done anonymously”. Lyle, in his own words says, “I want to be the person behind the scenes, helping someone else out”. Lyle Hendrix, a true humble servant. 

Happy Father’s Day to Lyle and all Dads at Kirby Pines! 

Wrtten by Joan Dodson, Resident, Kirby Pines

Resident Spotlight: Wynanne Dierssen

Celebrating a Nurse & Mother

During the month of May, two special groups are celebrated: MOTHERS AND NURSES. Wynanne Dierssen, a “happy” resident of Kirby Pines, can claim the honor of being both. As nurses today are struggling and dying in caring for COVID-19 patients, Wynanne’s life as a nurse was always in areas where nursing care was most challenging. Her early life was a happy one but full of challenges as well. This is her story:

Wynanne was born and reared on the North side of Chicago. Born during the Depression, her family struggled. Yet, she had a happy childhood because many members of her extended family lived in the same apartment, and, there was an amusement park nearby. Her only sibling, a nine year older brother, often “scoffed at the idea of having to babysit his sister”. Wynanne feels fortunate that she was always able to attend parochial schools.

Wynanne in Nursing School

Wynanne chose nursing as a career because of the encouragement of her mother. According to Wynanne, “Mother said nursing was a noble profession and one could always find a job”. She took her mother’s advice and was accepted into St. Xavier University, Chicago, graduating with a B.S. in Nursing in 1957. Wynanne says this about her studies: “Those were hectic years and I often wonder how I managed to graduate. I had lost my mother to heart disease in 1953. My father and extended family supported me for those four years. School was very difficult. We attended classes in the day time and spent evenings and nights providing nursing care to patients. We hardly ever slept!” Of course, studies and work didn’t interfere with dating! In 1955, Wynanne met her future husband. They married on October 12, 1957.

Wynanne’s first job was with the City of Chicago as a Visiting Nurse. Her job was high risk, visiting tuberculosis patients in their homes and assisting them in following their medical program. On learning she was to become a mother, Wynanne left this position and practiced private duty nursing for her remaining pregnancy. She temporarily left nursing to care for her children. According to Wynanne, “my family grew from one son to an additional two daughters-three fun, smart, and rambunctious kids”. Soon, however she returned to a part-time job at an outpatient clinic in Chicago. One of her most pleasant surprises was to meet the “Hamburger King”: the founder of McDonald’s who had availed himself of their services.

In 1977, Wynanne’s husband was transferred to Memphis. This was an exciting time to be in Memphis. Elvis Presley had just died! Wynanne took another hiatus from work as she stayed at home to help her children adjust to their many challenges from the move. In 1979, Wynanne was offered a job with a home health agency. This was a new and growing area of nursing and says Wynanne, “it was exciting to be able to bring ‘solid’ nursing care to patients at home”. This experience led to her move to the new rehabilitation and extended care offered by the Memphis Veterans Hospital. The laid back and relaxed atmosphere promoted, allowed nurses to wear jeans and tee shirts. According to Wynanne, patients sometimes asked, “When am I going to see a nurse?” When the VA decided to open a home health agency, Wynanne was one of four nurses selected to practice there. Wynanne ultimately became the Director of Home Based Primary Care, an innovative, interdisciplinary approach involving all branches of medical services caring for over 100 homebound veterans.

In 1992, the HBPC was honored to receive the Federal Executive Public Service Award. In 1996, Wynanne was recognized as one of the “Excellent Eleven” during the Celebrate Nursing Ceremony in Memphis. In view of this experience in developing a new role for nursing, Wynanne encourages all nurses in this way, “Don’t be afraid to create your own nursing job built around your own needs that coincides or expands those of your employer”.

Since retirement from nursing, Wynanne has stayed busy. She volunteers for the Germantown Community Library. Pre-pandemic, she tutored kindergarten students at Sherwood Elementary and was a greeter at Church of the Holy Spirit. She formerly collected “primitive” antiques and currently enjoys reading, theater, movies, concerts and “praying for the resolution of the pandemic”. Laughingly, Wynanne says, “I think the word ‘panDAMic’ is a better description”.

Wynanne has traveled extensively in this country as well as France and Greece. “I would love to travel again. I have mini-trips planned to see my daughters and grandchildren in St. Louis and friends in Atlanta ASAP”. Wynanne moved to a Garden Home in October, 2016. Her reason for choosing Kirby Pines was the Life Care Concept.

In a tribute to Florence Nightingale, Wynanne recalls, “Nurses honor her each year during Nurses Week, May 6-12. Nightingale, born on May 12, 1820, established a NOBLE profession by introducing care that would revolutionize nursing. Nightingale’s ‘Notes on Nursing’ became the model for the education of nurses throughout the world. Today’s nurses are having life changing experiences and many have died providing care for COVID patients. Those of us who are nurses understand the nature of nursing and what it means to be an integral part of a team sacrificing to save lives and provide security to those in crisis. To the Kirby Pines Nurses, I say, you are ALL honored during the month of May. You most emphatically deserve it. Be Proud!”

Thank you, Wynanne and all twenty retired nurses who are residents of Kirby Pines, for your years of service!

Wrtten by Joan Dodson, Resident, Kirby Pines

Resident Spotlight: Peggy Reynolds Gatlin

Accentuating the Positive

In the realm of relationships, a positive attitude is a desirable attribute for anyone, especially for someone in the teaching profession. In 1986, Peggy Reynolds’ principal nominated her for the Rotary Club’s Award for Teacher Excellence. Using the words of a famous song, he wrote: “Accentuating the positive and eliminating the negative and doing it with enthusiasm could be Mrs. Reynolds’ most personal quality”. Peggy received this award as well as others in her thirty-five years as a teacher in Memphis City Schools. 

Peggy Perkins was born August 3, 1937 at St. Joseph’s Hospital in Memphis. Her father owned Memphis Auto Parts and her mother was a homemaker. Peggy was the third of five children, four of whom were girls. They were always known as “the Perkins Girls”, according to Peggy. Church and school activities along with music lessons and many family gatherings are among Peggy’s fond memories of her childhood. 

Peggy attended public schools, graduating from Humes High School in 1955. She continued her education at Memphis State University where she earned a B.S. Degree in Elementary Education and a Masters in Special Education with a minor in Journalism. While there, Peggy pledged Alpha Gamma Delta Sorority and was active in the Baptist Student Union. The BSU chose Peggy to be a missionary in California during the summer of 1957. 

Well, it is said that opposites attract! Such was the case of the outgoing and friendly Peggy. While out with a group of friends, she met a very shy gentleman, Joe Reynolds. As Peggy states, “it was an immediate, opposite attraction”. After dating for a year, they married on Thanksgiving Day, 1958. Together, Peggy and Joe had four children, three sons and one daughter. There are now ten grandchildren and four great-grandchildren. Sadly, Joe passed away in 1992. 

Peggy’s teaching career began in 1958. Although married and with a growing family, Peggy was able to continue teaching and pursue a successful professional career. Peggy says that it was possible because her family worked as a team, each person having responsibility for assigned tasks. 

Teacher of the Year

In 1973, Peggy was elected Vice-President of the Memphis Education Association and served as President during the 1976-77 school year. Peggy states, “While serving as a professional educator and not a ‘union leader’, I advocated for the improvement of teaching conditions which were the children’s learning conditions”. She further adds, “When I taught, I individualized my instruction to the students’ needs”. This incorporated using teacher made materials, learning centers, and the media. Peggy was recognized for teaching reading using the newspaper. Because of her novel interventions in teaching, Peggy was requested to conduct many reading workshops. This prompted the writing of a book, “Here’s Something for Johnny to Read and Do”. In 1992, Peggy was awarded “Teacher of the Year” by the American Newspaper Publication Association. 

In 1994, Peggy retired from teaching in the Memphis City Schools. She didn’t stay retired long as she expanded her professional career to managing the grant program for teachers offered by the Memphis Rotary Club. After a year, she took a position with Johnson Auxiliary, coordinating volunteers for The City of Memphis Hospital. 

Given the opportunity to work with special students, Peggy was once again lured into a teaching position at Olive Branch High School. For eight more years, Peggy was inspired to introduce her innovative approach in teaching life skill classes. She introduced horseback riding, encouraged Special Olympics participation and had a “Spring Fling” for the students. 

In 2008, the teaching at Olive Branch ended and another chapter in Peggy’s life was about to begin. While continuing to be requested for workshops, Peggy was conducting reading workshops at Mississippi State University. There she made many friends and one in particular kept insisting she meet her cousin from Texas. With Peggy’s permission, the cousin, Charlie Gatlin, started calling. After a trip to an NCAA basketball tournament in San Antonio, Peggy agreed to meet Charlie at the Cracker Barrel in Fort Worth on her way home. 

According to Peggy, “The Cracker Barrel rendezvous went well and we made plans for Charlie to come to Memphis. He came to Memphis, we got acquainted and he met my family. After a whirlwind courtship over the next couple of months, Charlie proposed and I said ‘yes’! Charlie said at our age, we didn’t need to wait too long”. 

On August 6, 2008, Charlie and Peggy were married with Dr. Jimmy Latimer officiating. According to Peggy this new chapter in her life would “take a lifelong Memphian to a Texas ranch and to raising miniature horses. We ‘honeymooned’ for 38 days, RVing to California, took a 15-day cruise to Hawaii and then RV’d across the USA to our home. Our Texas life continued for eight years with NASCAR races, motorcycle rallies, winters in Port Aransas, many family reunions and always looking for a new adventure. We loved our Springtown, Texas home.” 

Eventually, it came time to downsize. As a member of Central Church in the 80’s, Peggy had heard about Kirby Pines. Little did she dream that she would someday be living here. In 2016, Peggy and Charles moved to a Garden Home at Kirby Pines. Sadly, Charlie passed away in August of 2020. Peggy has endeared herself at Kirby for writing the wonderful biographical sketches of new residents for the Pinecone. According to Peggy, “I’m looking forward to the new normal after COVID-19 is over”. Think POSITIVELY, Peggy! 

Written by Joan Dodson, Resident, Kirby Pines

Resident Spotlight: Warner Dickerson

Warner Dickerson

Man with a Vision

Early in life, Dr. Warner Dickerson envisioned a “ladder” that would take him out of poverty to a level of comfort and fulfillment. From the life of a sharecropper to one that incorporated becoming a community leader and a top executive in the state of Tennessee, Warner Dickerson overcame many obstacles to achieve that goal.

Born in rural Haywood County, Tennessee in 1937, Warner Dickerson grew up in a family of sharecroppers. When he was just a toddler, he followed his mother into the cotton field, pulling the lowest cotton bolls and putting them in his mother’s sack. As he aged, he was given a pillowcase of his own to fill. Warner was the last of six children; the older five were girls. According to Warner, his sisters begged for a brother and when he came along, they smothered him with love. In fact, they were so overprotective that it interfered with him doing the things most boys want to do, like playing football.

When Warner was nine years old, the family moved to Memphis and the economic status of the family improved greatly when his father found employment helping to build railroads. Warner was able to attend better schools and graduated from Booker T. Washington High School in 1956. He took vocational courses there and specialized in automotive mechanics. When he decided to enter Tennessee State University in Nashville, he declared his major in Mechanical Engineering. Much to his surprise, that major had nothing to do with automobiles! Eventually, he declared a different major and graduated with a Bachelor of Science in Mathematics in 1961.

Warner & Arcola
Warner & Arcola

While living in Nashville, Warner met his future wife, Arcola Leavell, on a blind date. According to Warner, “Initially, Arcola had absolutely no romantic interest in me. I couldn’t understand this, since I thought I was ‘the cat’s meow’! Then, in trying to figure out why she wasn’t interested in me, I discovered that she had the character and qualities I wanted to be with for the rest of my life”. Warner evidently found the way to win her heart and they were married in 1960.

Warner made the decision to teach in schools. Education became the “ladder” to achieve his goals. He says that the philosophy of Marian Edelman on education mirrors his own. That is, “Education is for improving the lives of others and for leaving your community and world better than you found it.” He and Arcola moved to Memphis eventually, and while teaching, both continued their education. Arcola completed requirements for a B.S. in Home Economics and Warner earned a M.S. degree in Mathematics from University of Memphis in 1967 and an Ed.D from University of Sarasota, Florida in 1979.

Warner began his career teaching mathematics at Carver High School, then moving to LeMoyne College, and then to State Technical Institute of Memphis, eventually becoming Vice-President. While there, he developed several programs which were applied to prison reform. These programs attracted the interest of other states and countries. The Governor of Tennessee, Lamar Alexander, recognized the talent and experience of Warner and appointed him as Tennessee State Commissioner for Vocational Education. He remained in that position for four and one-half years, traveling the state and being responsible for one-fourth of the state budget. Once his political life was over, Warner and his family moved back to Oakland, Tennessee and he became Superintendent of Schools for Fayette County. He retired in 1990 and he and Arcola moved to Olive Branch, MS.

Warner’s professional career and family obligations were all encompassing, and he and Arcola had a son and a daughter to rear. Yet, Warner found time to become a community activist and volunteered many hours in helping to improve his community. His past political life and frequent speaking engagements gave him the opportunity to mingle with the power structure of Tennessee and Memphis. Also, as an active member of Greenwood CME Church, Warner became a Bible teacher and eventually Director of Education.

During their lives, Warner and Arcola had time and resources to travel. They have visited Spain, Portugal, Mexico, Jamaica, Bermuda, Canada, France, Puerto Rico and many other places. Warner developed a hobby of collecting rocks and driftwood. His love of motors was manifested in riding a motorcycle every day until he could no longer leave Arcola, who had begun to show signs of dementia. This was the determining factor for them to move to Kirby Pines in September, 2019. Arcola moved to Job’s Way and until the pandemic of COVID-19, Warner visited her twice a day. He says that the most difficult thing he has ever experienced, tapping on his heart, is the situation that now exists where he has had no personal contact with Arcola for a year. He is only able to see her on face-time and through a glass door.

Warner says, “I am pleased with the comprehensive nature of Kirby Pines in the matter of health care, safety, culture and family style”. He is involved with the men’s Bible and Alzheimer’s Groups and loves to read. He remains close with his son and daughter. “They have been a tremendous support system for me”, adds Warner.

Warner Dickerson’s persona reflects a gentle, soft-spoken and professional gentleman. When you hear the story of his life, one realizes the impact h has had on others. A true model of ambition and overcoming much adversity, Dr. Warner Dickerson will leave a legacy to those who follow. What a great addition he is to the Kirby family!

Written by Joan Dodson, Resident, Kirby Pines

Resident Spotlight: Marty & Janie Kocman


Abundant Love

Marty and Janie Kocman grew up only three miles apart, but did not meet until they were seniors in high school. That is when “the arrow struck” and they dated while attending Indiana University in Bloomington, Indiana. Following graduation, they married and recently celebrated their fiftieth wedding anniversary. The affection Marty and Janie have for each other has grown deeper through the years because of the common bond they share in love of teaching, life goals and activities.

Marty and Janie were born in 1947 and lived in neighboring cities in Indiana. Janie (nee Dahlkamp) was the second of five children in the family. She says her escapades as a child would “fill a book”. “I have always maintained I am short because I was spanked so much! I was the original ‘Evel Knievel’ riding off the front porch on my tricycle, splitting my chin open, having to have stitches resulting in my continuing fear of needles.” One of Marty’s favorite childhood memories was hearing his mother speak of her early life and immigration, at age sixteen, to America from Czechoslovakia. She spoke no English, but had instructions pinned on her coat to get her to her aunt’s home in Gary, Indiana.

The high school Marty and Janie attended was in Hammond, Indiana. Each class year had over 500 students, so it was not until they shared a class as seniors that they met. According to Janie, “because I was so small the boys picked on me, and would move my chair to the front of the class before the teacher arrived”. One of those boys was Marty.

During summers in high school (and college) Marty worked in factories to help with his college plans. His love of music accelerated in high school with involvement in band and choir. In his senior year, Marty won the “Young Artist” competition on flute and soloed with the Chicago Heights Symphony Orchestra. Marty furthered his love of music earning a Bachelor in Music Education and a M.A. in Flute Performance. One of the highlights of Marty’s college career was marching with the Marching Hundred in the 1968 Rose Bowl Parade at half time of the IU-USC game.

Following graduation from college, Marty began his teaching career as a band director in Olympia, Illinois. His symphonic and jazz bands won festivals throughout the midwest. His love of music helped him encourage young musicians to achieve. His bands had opportunities to play with many famous professional musicians. Marty retired from high school teaching in 2003 and took a position as Director of Jazz Studies at Governor’s State University until he and Janie moved to Bartlett, Tennessee in 2006. Janie earned a B.S. in Education and later a M.S. in Communications. As a career educator, in Flossmoor, Illinois. Janie taught Home Economics to junior high students for thirty-four years, retiring in 2002.

The move to Bartlett was another chapter in the lives of the Kocman’s. Their love of gardening was manifested in their home being a “showplace” of beauty. Their love of travel took them many places. They traveled to Slovakia to visit Marty’s aunt and uncle, survived three earthquakes while in Costa Rica, experienced an insurrection in Guatemala and cruised with Orca whales on the coast of Alaska. A “dark experience” occurred when visiting Coober Pedy, Australia, a town carved entirely out of rock and underground because of the temperature there.

Marty became involved with the Bartlett Symphony, creating the Flute Choir which performed several times at Kirby. Because of their love of miniature objects, both Janie and Marty became involved in hobbies that nurtured that love. Marty builds and flies remote control airplanes. Janie belongs to Tri-M, a miniature group. She has several collections, including Santas, teddy bears and a lovely dollhouse with museum quality miniatures.

In contemplating their later years, the Kocmans decided to look at possible senior living facilities. When they toured the Garden Homes at Kirby, they fell in love with a home and the LifeCare Community concept. Since moving into their home in May of 2020, they have enjoyed planting and tending to the many plants and flowers they have added. Their Birman cat, Biscuit, is especially fond of their screened in porch where she watches for her dog friend, Josh Colditz.

Janie and Marty’s Wedding

Although happy to be at Kirby Pines, Marty and Janie agree, “It is unfortunate that we moved here in the middle of the pandemic because it has not allowed us to get acquainted with all of our neighbors or to participate in the activities. However, we have been most impressed by the welcoming people we have met here. One of our favorite things are the ‘yummy’ pancakes Cory makes each Tuesday morning in the Bistro”.

There is much to love about the Kocman’s. Despite the pandemic, Marty has participated in solo flute performances and both have participated in the mask and Halloween contests at Kirby. The talents, personalities and professionalism of both Janie and Marty Kocman are welcomed assets to the Kirby family, known for the LOVE we have for each other.

Written by Joan Dodson, Resident, Kirby Pines

Resident Spotlight: Genenne Wilson

Genenne Wilson

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!”

Genenne Wilson

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