Resident Spotlight: Willard Bruce Powell


On October 28, 1929, the worst economic event in American history occurred when the stock market crashed, resulting in THE GREAT DEPRESSION. It was three weeks later, November 20, 1929, that Willard Bruce Powell entered the world. Despite early hardships, Bruce says that he has had a “charmed” life. 

Due to the economy, Bruce’s parents lived with his mother’s parents in an apartment in Brooklyn, New York. His father worked as a projectionist at a movie theater and Bruce was allowed to see all movies for free. Although he had parents, Bruce says he was primarily reared by his grandparents. He recalls two major events which occurred during his preschool years: When he was five years old, Bruce’s grandfather took him to a lecture at Yeshiva University. Afterward, he was escorted to the speaker and prompted to shake his hand. He later learned that the speaker was Albert Einstein! Another memorable event was going with his parents to California where his father’s mother lived. They remained there a year while his father helped to build his grandmother’s new home. 

Returning to New York, Bruce attended elementary school PS 132. His parents divorced when he was about ten years old and he remained with his father. His father remarried and the family moved to Miami, Florida where Bruce attended high school, then graduated Cum Laude in 1952 from The University of Miami with a B.S. in Mechanical Engineering. Bruce had worked at various jobs to help support himself and was fortunate to receive a full scholarship for college. 

Following graduation, Bruce learned of a two-year program offered by Allis-Chalmers Manufacturing Company in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. The program was designed for young engineers. Bruce was interested in power plant machinery and distribution systems so this program was an ideal “fit” for him. According to Bruce, “Allis-Chalmers treated us very well, giving us membership in their engineering society and allowing us to eat lunch every day in the Engineering Club.” They had also provided living accommodations for Bruce in a private boarding house. The lady who owned the house had a friend with an unmarried daughter. A dinner date was arranged where Bruce met Eloda Selbo. They dated for approximately a year, marrying in June 1954. 

The Korean War had been declared but the students at Allis-Chalmers were deferred from the draft for two years because they were involved in work deemed supportive of war efforts. Following his two years of deferment, Bruce enlisted in the Navy and he and Eloda moved to his first base located in California. Bruce recalls that adventure, “This girl who had never been out of Wisconsin went with her husband, whom she had only known for a year, to California. We drove on Route 66, with all of our belongings. I could barely see out the windows!” 

In the Navy, Bruce attended Officers Candidate School and was commissioned as an Ensign in the Civil Engineering Corps (Seabees). Bruce left the Navy after three years as a Lieutenant, Senior Grade. He and Eloda moved to New Orleans, Louisiana. “I immediately found civilian work with the Navy as a mechanical engineer doing essentially the same thing I had done while in the Navy,” states Bruce. 

After a few years with the Navy, Bruce learned that the United States Postal Service (USPS) was beginning to mechanize and needed engineers. He transferred to USPS and worked there for several years in management positions, primarily overseeing the construction of new buildings. On learning of another opportunity to work as the Supervisor of Shipbuilding and Quality Control Engineer, Bruce transferred back to the Navy. According to Bruce, “We built or converted a variety of sea vessels, including the famous Swift Boats that saw quite a lot of action in the Vietnam War.” Yet again, a better job opportunity became available with the USPS. Bruce and his family moved to Dallas, Texas where he filled the position of Space Requirements Officer. Finally, transferring to Memphis in 1971, he retired from the USPS in 1992 as General Manager in the Executive Service. 

Bruce and Eloda are the parents of two children, a daughter, and a son. Bruce says that Eloda “was the perfect wife for me. I enjoyed being a father and I am proud of my children and their accomplishments, especially with their own children.” There are now six grandchildren and two great-grandchildren. 

Bruce and Eloda 1954

Bruce and Eloda moved to Kirby Pines in 2018, having made the decision to move here ten years earlier. Bruce said that Eloda adjusted immediately. However, he admits it took him a while to adjust to the changes. Also, since moving to Kirby Pines, Bruce lost two of his loved ones. First, his daughter died of breast cancer in 2020 and his beloved Eloda passed away in 2021. They had been married for sixty-eight years. Now, at age 92, Bruce lives a somewhat solitary life but enjoys the evening meals with a group of friends. As a long-time member of the Church of Christ, Bruce attends the 8 am Sunday church services and the Saturday morning Men’s Prayer Group at Kirby Pines. He is also learning to play bridge. 

Bruce says, “I have had a wonderful life and been blessed with a wonderful family. I have loved all of my work and it doesn’t seem like I have ‘worked’ a day in my life. I have lived a charmed life.” 

Written by Joan Dodson, Resident, Kirby Pines

Resident Spotlight: Billie Jean Ratliff


The nurturing and caring instincts which are requisites for being a good mother usually come into play when a woman gives birth to a child. Sometimes fate steps in and requires those skills before that occurs. Such was the case with Billie Jean Ratliff. She was the first to be born into a family with six brothers and two sisters to follow her. Because she was the oldest child, she was cast into a maternal role at an early age. This experience would help her later on when she had her own children. 

Billie Jean Dawkins was born at St. Joseph’s Hospital in Memphis on November 23, 1934. Her parents married before completing high school and both found it necessary to work outside the home to support their growing family. For four years, Billie Jean’s father served in the military and his absence made it necessary for the family to live with relatives. 

Billie Jean’s paternal grandfather built several malls in the Memphis area and after leaving the military, Billie Jean’s father opened a grocery store in one of the malls on Getwell Road and eventually at two other sites. All the children, at one time in their lives, worked as cashiers or stockers in the stores. Billie Jean remembers vividly being at the store on an infamous day in 1950 when a Chicago and Southern airplane crashed near Getwell Road and their store. “My mother and I were standing at the front window of the store” recalls Billie Jean. “We watched as the plane crashed near us. My father was the first one to reach the site and pulled all passengers out to safety! The Commercial Appeal featured a nice article about him.” 

The role of Billie Jean to be the homemaker and caretaker of the younger children began when she was eight or nine years of age with her responsibilities increasing as she reached junior high. Usually, the parents did not get home in the evening until seven or eight o’clock. So, she learned to cook, clean the house, wash clothes and supervise homework. Billie Jean says that this seemed like a normal life, but she missed many of the opportunities to become involved with the extra-curricular activities enjoyed by her age group. However, she was a majorette in her high school band for three years. One of Billie Jean’s granddaughters related this about her, “I believe that the circumstances of Grandmother’s early life are responsible for the strength, resilience, courage, stamina, loyalty, and humility that made her a good mother and person.” 

Billie Jean in HS

Billie Jean attended several different grammar schools and graduated from Messick High School in 1952. She enrolled in Memphis State University (now The University of Memphis), and after one year, met and married Jimmy Ganong. They were married for seven years before divorcing and had four children in those seven years. This meant she had multiple children in diapers at the same time. Fortunately, her Mother-in-law was available to help. Billie Jean says, “It was great when they all got to secondary school and were all participating in sports and activities together.” 

Two years after her divorce from Jimmy, Billie Jean married her high school sweetheart, James Gordon Tobias, a Lieutenant with the Tennessee Highway Patrol. Billie Jean and “Toby” had one daughter, giving them a fifth child. According to Billie Jean, “We had forty-three years together! He was a wonderful father and person and instrumental in starting ballparks throughout our neighborhood.” Unfortunately, “Toby” died of a heart attack in 2006. 

Billie Jean is extremely proud of her children, all of whom graduated from college and built successful lives and careers. One daughter, in particular, Cheri Ganong, is well known for advancing from a “Pom Pom Girl” at Memphis State to Director of the program, then leading the University’s group to ten continuous years of national championships. 

In addition to being responsible for rearing five children, Billie Jean worked for ICI Americans Chemical Company for thirty-seven years. The company was bought by Humko and according to Billie Jean, had five name changes during her employment. “I thoroughly loved working with the people there,” says Billie Jean. “They treated me like family.” 

In 2012, after seven years of widowhood, Billie Jean married Barney Ratliff. They had known each other for some time through mutual friends. Together they made trips to Scotland and Ireland and many trips to Pickwick Lake and the University of Alabama to visit grandchildren. Unexpectedly, Barney passed away in 2018. According to Billie Jean, “We had six wonderful years together and after his death, I knew I did not want to live by myself or with my children, so, I started investigating, and because I already had friends living at Kirby Pines and with help from Marketing, I made the move to Kirby Pines in 2018.” Billie Jean enjoys having her family close by which now includes twelve grandchildren and soon four great-grandchildren. 

Billie Jean continues, “I have always loved my church, Highland Church of Christ and I’m so happy to have the 8:00 am church services available here every Sunday. I have loved every minute of living at Kirby Pines. I play cards in several groups, work in the Blossom Shop and enjoy meeting so many people. Kirby Pines has the most wonderful people!” 

Wrtten by Joan Dodson, Resident, Kirby Pines

Resident Spotlight: Joe & Geneva Jackson


A beautiful fourteen-year-old girl with brown hair and lovely blue eyes enrolls in high school and meets a seventeen year old handsome young man who is President of the junior high school class. They fall in love and elope as soon as he graduates, and she has completed her sophomore year in high school. 

Today, that couple, Geneva and Joe Jackson are still deeply in love and will celebrate their sixty-seventh wedding anniversary in May. When asked what attracted them to each other, Geneva said, “I just liked the way he looked.” Joe said, “It was her beautiful eyes.” This is their story:

Geneva Gilliland and Joe Jackson were both born to farming families and lived in neighboring counties of West Tennessee. Geneva was born in 1939 in a community called “Frog Jump” in Crockett County, the last of five girls. “I was supposed to be a boy and I had already been named ‘John Wayne’. I think my father was so disappointed he wanted to pinch my head off,” says Geneva. Geneva laughs when she says this and relates that she had a very happy childhood and a loving family. She was given the opportunity to study piano, played piano at church and for a quartet that sang every Saturday morning on WTRV in Ripley, Tennessee. 

Joe was born in 1936 in the “Nankipoo” community, Lauderdale County, completing a family of four boys and one girl. They would later move to Halls, Tennessee when Joe’s father bought a combined grocery store and service station. Geneva and Joe’s families were members of the Methodist Church. It was at a church gathering that they actually first saw each other. Both would attend high school in Halls, Tennessee; Joe became President of his senior class and their romance blossomed. 

Geneva 1957

It was 1955, at the end of the school year, when Geneva and Joe decided to elope. With two friends accompanying them, they traveled to Holly Springs, Mississippi and were married in the study of a Methodist minister. The next day, they traveled by train to Flint, Michigan. Joe’s parents had moved there previously, and Geneva and Joe made their home with them for one year. During that time, Geneva completed requirements for a high school diploma. 

Returning to Memphis in 1957, Geneva worked as a nursing assistant in the OB-GYN area of Baptist Hospital. She completed a laboratory course and was employed in an OB/GYN physician’s office for six years. When their first son Tim was born, Geneva became a stay-at-home mom welcoming son Robin five years later. 

Joe was first employed by Purity Products, a candy wholesale company. He completed a William R. Moore and Dale Carnegie course, then decided to start his own business, Jackson Vending Company. Geneva managed the office and counted what she called “dirty money” in the literal sense! After ten years, the business was sold and Joe bought a Western Auto store in Trenton, Tennessee. During the six years there, the area suffered a tremendous flood when several area dams broke. According to Geneva, “It was an awful time as property and lives were lost. Business and interest rates were bad, and we decided to move back to Memphis.”

Returning to Memphis, Joe again began a vending company, Spartain Automatic, which he managed for twelve years before selling. Joe’s last job was in Public Relations for Car Wash USA, a business started by their son Tim. 

Following retirement, the Jackson’s took two cruises and enjoyed their family life. Both played golf and were active in church. Joe also played baseball while Geneva loved singing in groups, cooking, and antiquing.

Joe 1957

According to Geneva, “In 2009, Joe and I started looking for a place that was like home. We looked at three other places and didn’t like any of them” Laughingly, she adds, “We had known Nancy Pence a long time, even before she wed George! Knowing Nancy and others who lived here and working with Pat Mills in Marketing—this was our ticket to buy in.”

In 2016, Joe was diagnosed with prostate cancer. After eight weeks of radiation, he was cured. However, the need to make a change resulted in the decision to move to Kirby Pines in July, 2017.

Geneva assists with the memorials held at Kirby Pines, cares for Joe and plans to sing with the Entertainers Chorus. When asked what she likes best about Kirby Pines, Geneva responded, “I like everything (except COVID)! I especially like being near all of our church friends from Christ United Methodist Church who live here. I love the atmosphere and the fact that we are all brothers and sisters in our Lord.” Their two sons live close by, and the four grandchildren and seven great grandchildren make for frequent happy family time.

Joe and Geneva Jackson are a unique couple. To know them is to love them and they seem to love everyone. Geneva has an infectious laugh which is easily identifiable. Joe entertains us by mimicking Chinese and telling tall tales. Both Geneva and Joe hope they will be together for a long time, in love, even into eternity. 

Wrtten by Joan Dodson, Resident, Kirby Pines

Resident Spotlight: Barbara Hanrahan


We were truly blessed when Barbara Hanrahan made the decision to make Kirby Pines her forever home in June of 2019. Barbara represents a strong Irish heritage and a devout Catholic faith. Born into an Irish family, she married an Irishman and gave her two children Irish names. Since moving to Kirby Pines, Barbara has become involved in many aspects of the life here and is a “go-to” person when something is needed. She involves herself with people and is quick to volunteer with such things as assisting someone with their meals in the dining room or delivering a meal to a shut-in. Her personal life has had several sad occasions, yet, she maintains a positive attitude and a happy disposition. 

Barbara Jane Cummings was born on October 28, 1938 in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. She was the oldest of nine children, five brothers and three sisters to follow. Her mother was a stay-at-home mom and her father worked three jobs to support the family. Her grandfather started a honey-roasted peanut business in Milwaukee which remains in business today. When asked what her family life was like with so many siblings, she responded, “It was pandemonium most of the time and we ate a lot of soup and stews!” Christmas time was very special. Barbara recalls, “On Christmas Eve Day, Dad would buy a marked down tree; then we would decorate it. After dinner, Dad got us in the car and drove around the city to enjoy all the lights and decorations. Mom stayed home to let Santa in the door as we had no chimney. Poor Mom had to get all the presents ready for us!” 

Barbara attended Catholic school in Milwaukee, grades one through twelve, graduating in 1956. College was not an option, so she looked for employment to support herself. She worked in the bookkeeping department of a dental company until her marriage to Bill Hanrahan on Nov. 8, 1958. She had met Bill in 1957 when she joined a church group organized for young, unmarried Catholics. Their first date included a visit to the hospital to greet Barbara’s new baby sister and later to a bowling alley for a game with Bill’s family. Bill and Barbara would later adopt two children, Kevin and Kathleen. Sadly and unexpectedly, Kevin died in 1984 while serving in the Navy. Kathleen, the daughter, remains close by. There are presently three grandsons and eight great-grandchildren in the family. 

Bill was employed by the Schlitz Brewery Company in the Quality Control Division and subsequently was transferred often to manage a problem. The couple’s first move was to Kansas City, Missouri where Barbara worked in a neighborhood drug store until they adopted son Kevin in 1963. Barbara then became a stay-at-home mom and continued when she and Bill adopted daughter Kathleen following their transfer to Tampa, Florida. After four years in Tampa, Bill was promoted and the family relocated to Winston-Salem, North Carolina. They remained there for seven years and during that time, Barbara was Assistant to the Director of the Montessori School for five of those years. Bill was transferred to Syracuse, New York where according to Barbara, “We endured four harsh winters.” When the plant where Bill worked was sold, he transferred and moved the family to Longview, Texas. 

Barbara at Age 6

Then in 1982, the Hanrahan family made a final move to Memphis, Tennessee. Barbara was first employed by Goldsmith’s Department Store in the Children and Baby section. Following Goldsmith’s, she worked several years for Garibaldi Jewelry Store and then for Middleton Jewelry where she remained for twenty years until the store closed in 2021. Additionally, Barbara volunteered for the St. Jude-Fed Ex Golf Tournament for twenty-six years. She also volunteers at church and continues her membership at St. Bridgid Catholic Church. Barbara and Bill enjoyed many trips abroad, visiting Hawaii, Germany, Switzerland, The British Isles and the Netherlands. 

In 2012, Bill passed away after experiencing several health problems. Barbara remained in their home for seven years before deciding to make a change. “I wanted to be in a place where I did not have to worry about my future or being cared for. I chose Kirby Pines primarily because of LifeCare.” 

Barbara says, “I love living at Kirby Pines because there is so much to do. I already knew several residents because of my golf and jewelry involvement. I love making new friends!” Barbara keeps busy by going to water aerobics five days a week, plays cards three afternoons a week, staffs the Blossom Shop on Saturday mornings and sings with the Entertainers Chorus. She attends mass daily, brings communion to a shut-in and is always volunteering to serve others. 

Barbara wishes you a “Happy St. Patrick’s Day” and to share with you her favorite Irish Blessing: May God grant you always a sunbeam to warm you, A moonbeam to charm you, a sheltering Angel so nothing can harm you. Laughter to cheer you, Faithful friends near you. And, whenever you pray, Heaven to hear you. 

Wrtten by Joan Dodson, Resident, Kirby Pines

Resident Spotlight: Jim Gordon


Yes, Jim Gordon is a gem in so many ways. He is a good neighbor who bakes cookies, a man who loves his family, and a good friend to many. The fact that he is also a jeweler makes the term seem appropriate, especially for the month of February. Jim had several other jobs earlier in his life; however, he now spends two to three days a week as a consultant and seller of jewelry, concentrating on diamonds. He and his partner’s “store” is not advertised but business thrives on word of mouth recommendations. 

James Aubrey Gordon is a native Memphian, born July 28, 1937. According to Jim, “We lived nearby and I was raised in the Union Avenue Baptist Church. I have one sister, four years older than I. We played outside with other neighborhood kids until we heard my father’s whistle. Then, we knew dinner was ready and it was time to come in for the night.” Jim’s father owned a jewelry store which influenced him in later life. 

When Jim was four years old, the family moved to the Springdale area of Memphis which remained as his family home until age twenty-five. He attended Springdale Elementary, Snowden Junior, and Central High School, graduating in 1955. As a youngster, Jim became involved with the Boy Scouts and developed an interest in hunting and fishing. When asked about dating, Jim says he really didn’t date much as he was very shy. However, he wanted to play softball on a championship team, so Jim became a member of Springdale Methodist Church which sponsored such a team. It was at that church that Jim met the “love of his life,” Marilyn Campbell. Jim was a senior in high school and Marilyn was only a freshman but he knew that she was The One. “I never dated anyone else after I met her,” says Jim. 

Smokejumper Jim

Following graduation from high school, Jim enrolled in Vanderbilt University. “It took me five and one-half years to get a degree in Economics as I really didn’t know what I wanted to do with my life at that time.” During two of the summers Jim was in college, he had some of the most exciting experiences of his life by becoming a Smokejumper for the US Forest Service. Based in Montana, after a thirty day orientation, Jim often parachuted from a plane with other Smokejumpers into a wilderness that had no access by any means other than by foot. After the fires were out, the Smokejumpers had to walk back. They carried with them a two day supply of rations and a sleeping bag for survival. With compasses and maps, the returning Smokejumpers could find their way to a highway where they would “thumb” their way back to base. “You had better return with your parachute!” exclaims Jim. The pay for this service was $3.50 per hour but they were paid for the walk back as well. “I made enough money to pay my tuition at Vanderbilt.”

Following graduation from Vanderbilt in 1961, Jim joined the Air Force Reserve and was activated in 1962 due to the Cuban Crisis. Fortunately, he was stationed at the Memphis Airport, assigned to Personnel Equipment. Jim had earlier asked Marilyn the “big question” and always the romantic, had placed her ring in a box of chocolates. She accepted and a wedding was planned for November. Although on active duty, Jim was granted a three day leave to get married. He and Marilyn would become parents to two “wonderful” daughters, Leigh and Nancy and now, four grandchildren have been added to the family.

Jim with his daughters

Jim’s first job was with a finance company that repossessed cars. After five years, he left for a sales position with IBM, retiring after twenty-five years. In 1991, Jim was hired to be Operations Director for the FedEx-St. Jude Golf Tournament. The tournament had been moved to a new golf course and it was Jim’s job to get the course ready. It took five years to complete the task, and he retired in 2004. Following this, Jim began his jewelry business. 

Jim loved to travel but Marilyn did not like to fly. Because of their Scottish heritage, they did make a trip to England and Scotland. While there, they talked with many natives, including a Catholic priest. When the priest heard that Marilyn was a Campbell, he exclaimed, “Faith and Begorrah, your families have been fighting for over 100 years!” Marilyn had graduated from Memphis State University with a degree in Education and a Masters in Library Science, becoming Librarian for Vollentine, then, St. Mary’s Episcopal School. The Gordons eventually placed their church membership with Christ United Methodist Church. Sadly, Marilyn succumbed to Alzheimer’s disease in 2012. “We had fifty wonderful years together,” says Jim. He had provided care of her for most of the last five years of her life. 

After Marilyn’s death, Jim lived alone for seven years before moving to Kirby Pines in 2019. “I finally realized that fellowship is important. I investigated all options and chose Kirby Pines because of Lifecare and the beautiful campus. Golf is my passion and I play twice a week, weather permitting. Now, I have sharpened my billiard skills by playing with four ‘pool sharks’ here at Kirby. This activity makes for great discussions and gamesmanship,” says Jim. Don’t you wonder what those discussions are about?

Wrtten by Joan Dodson, Resident, Kirby Pines

Resident Spotlight: Jane Hodge



The Christmases Jane Smith Hodge experienced as a child will most likely seem familiar to many. Jane was born in Munford, Tennessee, a small rural community, in 1939. Her father was a farmer; her mother, a stay-at-home mom. Mid-way her second grade, Jane’s family moved to Charleston, Mississippi where her father again farmed until he found employment as a machinist in a local factory. Jane was the oldest of four other girls in the family; two brothers serving as “bookends”. With so many children, Christmas was always a great occasion. This is how Jane describes her early Christmases: 

“We did not grow up with the elaborate Christmases that children have today and with six kids in the family, we ‘made do’ with what we had. Like in the story books, we went to the woods and cut down a tree that would fit on a table. Then, we would string popcorn and holly berries to decorate the tree. The star on top of the tree was made by Mother and covered in foil. Then, we covered the tree with icicles we purchased. While we were gone to find the tree, Mother stayed home to help Santa with the gifts. These were placed under the tree after we decorated it to wait until Christmas morning. If we were lucky and it snowed near Christmas, Mother always made ‘snow ice cream’ in a huge dishpan. Those memories are the favorites of my childhood.” 

The family remained in Charleston and thrived there. Jane says, “It was a wonderful place to raise a family, with good schools, churches and plenty to do.” The only “bad” thing Jane remembers happening was the time her brother accidentally chopped off the end of her finger while she was helping him at the “choppin” block. They had no car but a neighbor transported her to the doctor and the finger was successfully reattached. While in high school, Jane was on the basketball team which won the Delta Valley Championship. She also received awards including “Class Favorite”. 

Following graduation from high school in 1957, Jane worked a year to save money for college. She then enrolled in a one year secretarial course at Northwest Junior College. Because no jobs were available in Charleston, Jane moved to Memphis. She briefly worked for the American Red Cross but was soon employed by Bridgestone/Firestone. 

Shortly after coming to Memphis, Jane was introduced to Lee Hodge by a friend. They fell in love and were married in 1961. Lee was a brick mason and designed a beautiful herringbone pattern for the fireplace in one of their homes. She and Lee became the parents of three daughters and today there are nine grandchildren and eleven greats! Sadly, Lee passed away with dementia in 1998. 

Jane Hodge

While the children were small, Jane was a stay-at-home mom and served as PTA President of their school. Even so, Jane had twenty five years with Firestone, ten in Memphis and fifteen in a Chicago suburb. While there, she became Transportation Manager for a ten state area. 

In 2003, following her retirement, Jane moved back to Collierville to be close to her family. She became a member of a grief group sponsored by First Evangelical Church which is also involved with the Orange Mound District Youth Foundation. She remains an active member of Ridgeway Baptist Church and their Golden Agers Group. 

Jane says she “fell in love” with Kirby Pines after attending one of the Marketing luncheons. The continual care concept as well as the promise to take care of her in the event of financial problems, sold her. She moved to Kirby Pines in 2020. Jane says this about Kirby Pines: “I love it here. The grounds’ staff keep everything looking lovely. Plus, I feel very safe here and I especially enjoy my balcony. I never have to worry about cooking dinner or fixing anything in my apartment. The thing that I enjoy most is playing games with my friends.” 

Although she has had a busy life, Jane has managed to travel extensively, visiting all seven continents and forty-seven countries, some twice. Several of these trips have been made since moving to Kirby Pines. 

According to Jane, “Christmases now are a contrast to the ones of my earlier life. Actually, I have three Christmases. The first is my immediate family celebration on the night of December 23rd. We have dinner and open gifts. With three daughters, and their families, we have a large group, although not everyone is able to come every year because we are so scattered. The second Christmas is called ‘The Sisters’ Christmas Birthday’. With five sisters, we celebrate our birthdays in this manner: we go out to dinner, return and open gifts to each other. The third and final Christmas celebration is when the entire clan comes together on Christmas Day for a ‘pot-luck’ dinner. There are usually more desserts than regular food, but we always have the traditional turkey and ham. After the delicious meal, we play a game called ‘Dirty Santa’. Everyone brings a gift worth $20. The gift you pick may be taken away from you by someone else. All in good fun!” 

Jane wishes to thank all the people at Kirby Pines who have made her feel welcomed. She along with this writer wishes you a VERY MERRY CHRISTMAS! 

Wrtten by Joan Dodson, Resident, Kirby Pines

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: Diane Mullins

Diane Mullins

Acting Up and Staying Busy

In “As You Like It”, Shakespeare declares that “the world is a stage”. His various “stages” of life could also be interpreted as occurring in ACT I, II, & III. While most of Diane Mullins’ life revolved around family and community, her entry into the acting world was unique, interesting and fascinating. It seems appropriate to view her life in those terms. She shares her story:

ACT I: Dorothy Diane DeWess entered the first stage of her life in Chicago, Illinois on September 3, 1932. Due to her father’s work, the family lived in several cities but eventually moved to Memphis where they remained. She had a happy childhood but always felt in the shadow of her older brother, David. “He was very popular while I was a wallflower”, says Diane. When she was six years old, she survived a freak accident after falling one and one-half stories down an elevator shaft. She fortunately was dressed in a rabbit fur coat, muff and tam, so that her fall was not fatal due to being wrapped in a “pillow of fur”. However, she did sustain a broken wrist and a concussion. Diane attended Memphis public schools and while attending Messick High School, met her future husband, Billy (Curly) Mullins. They married in 1951, a year following graduation.

Diane and Billy Mullins
Billy and Diane in Hawaii

ACT II: Diane’s husband Billy served in the Army during the Korean War. During this time, Diane worked in secretarial jobs. On Billy’s return from the Army, he began work in insurance, eventually starting his own business, A-Z Insurance Agency. Diane and Billy had three boys, Tim, Pat, and Mike (deceased). Diane became “Girl Friday” to her husband’s business. Billy was so successful that he was awarded thirty-five vacation trips. These included many U.S. cities and three trips to Hawaii and England. The Mullins were active in Colonial Baptist Church before transferring to Ridgeway Baptist.

The acting bug struck by accident. Although Diane had done some acting in high school, she never considered this as an option in her life. However, a friend encouraged her to try out for a part in a Christmas play at Germantown Community Theatre. She got the part and the “acting bug bit”, says Diane. From theatre, she saw an opportunity in the independent film industry and performed in many independent movies. These are movies usually only fifteen to twenty minutes in length, are entered into a film festival and, never seen by the public. She hired an agent and was able to make commercials for businesses and products, including: Accent Jewelry, Fed Ex, Kroger, Arkansas Lottery and one for Doritos which was entered in the Superbowl commercial contest. She has been an extra in all of the Memphis made movies, including: The Firm, The Client, Blueberry Nights, and Nothing But The Truth. 

During this time, another form of acting was providing one of the most unique and fulfilling roles for Diane. She was hired to be a “standardized patient” for all of the Medical Units of University of Tennessee. In this role she was given a script to memorize and perform as a “sick” patient for the students to analyze and diagnose. A big part of the evaluation was determining the bedside manner and appropriate reactions of the students. One example was of a hysterical woman who had to cry for one and one-half minutes. Faculty watched on camera and Diane had the opportunity to evaluate as well. “What fun it was acting ‘sick’ for the students. I really felt like I was contributing in a worthwhile way”, says Diane. 

Diane Mullins Acting
Acting for UT Students

In the late 70’s or early 80’s, Diane began singing with The Sweet Adelines, a barbershop harmony singing group for women. They performed in many venues including contests. 

ACT III: The singing with The Sweet Adelines continued for twenty-five years. The acting for U.T. students ended in 2016. However, acting continues. According to Diane, “I am really enjoying my acting career and there must not be too many ‘old white-haired ladies’ that are in the acting business. I get called often when an old gal is needed. I am ready to go and the ham in me loves it!” In fact, she has just finished a role in an independent film called “Dear Lady Joan”. 

Sadly, in 2019, Billy passed away following a two-year illness. Diane made the decision to move to Kirby Pines in 2020. Her two sons, and all but two of her six grandchildren and nine great-grandchildren live nearby. “My family means everything to me and I’m so grateful that they are near me”, says Diane. Diane also likes going out to lunch or dinner with old friends, playing bridge, reading and just socializing with people. “Although I have only been at Kirby Pines a short time, I have made so many new friends and I am enjoying all the activities and programs offered. I feel very blessed and very much at home here”, says Diane. 

Fortunately good health allows Diane to continue many activities. Her story reminds us that productivity, happiness and a satisfying life does not necessarily occur in one particular stage of life. The ability to have a satisfying last “scene” in our life depends on being willing to remain open to others and taking advantage of the opportunities that are available to be productive and serve others. 

Wrtten by Joan Dodson, Resident, Kirby Pines