Resident Spotlight: Billie Jean Ratliff

A MOTHER’S STORY

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


This Month Celebrate Better Hearing and Speech

As you may or may not know, May is Better Hearing and Speech Month! This provides us all with an opportunity to increase awareness about communication disorders and their respective treatments. Our speech, language, and hearing are what allow us to communicate with one another, learn more about the world we live in, and feel connected. When we struggle with our speech and language skills or our hearing, it makes everything else a little bit harder. That’s why this month is a great opportunity to talk about speech-language therapy and how it can benefit you, should you or anyone you know ever need it. 

Speech-language therapists are degreed and licensed professionals who can evaluate and treat patients for hearing, language, communication, and swallowing concerns. Their focus is on improving speech-language expression, comprehension, and oral motor skills for more accurate speech production. Another facet of speech-language therapy includes cognition. 

Cognition is something we can all work to improve daily. Studies show that brain games and activities can sharpen thinking skills. While some cognitive decline over time is normal, those who have cognitive stimulation tend to have better memory and attention. Just think of the adage: “use it or lose it!” These skills required to play brain games and cognitive activities include processing speed, planning skills, reaction time, decision making, and short-term memory. The brain is “plastic” and can continue to grow, develop, and make connections well into our lives, if we continue to challenge it!

Whether you participate in a group program, partner up with a friend, or work independently, it’s important to continuously give your mind different types of challenges and stimulation. Some ideas might include participating in the Bridge Group, Mahjong, or Game Play – it’s great to try things you haven’t done before, as that continues to engage the brain in different ways. Much like our muscles adapt to exercise, our brains adapt to cognitive tasks. 

Brittany Austin, National Director of Health and Wellness, Functional Pathways 

Speech therapy can help with everything from the way we speak and swallow to the way we remember. Mia Fioranelli-Greer is a Speech-Language Pathologist for Functional Pathways and Kirby Pines. She was asked why she chose this field for her career. “When the ‘Dean of Undecided’ at Delta State University told me it was time to declare a major, I slightly panicked. How are you supposed to know what you want to be ‘when you grow up’ at 19 years old? I got busy and took some classes in a variety of fields, one of which was Speech-Language Pathology (SLP). After taking my first class in that field, I knew I had found my calling. Speech-Language Pathology has so many options for ages to treat, disorders to treat and most of all, helping people. As an SLP, you are required to get a master’s degree to be able to use your degree, so after graduating from Delta State University (Cleveland, MS) with a bachelor’s degree, I attended Valdosta State University (Valdosta, GA) and received my master’s degree. 

Mia Fioranelli-Greer
Speech Language Pathologist

After 20 years of working in a variety of settings and with a variety of ages, I started to get a little complacent. I was hungry to learn more and do more as an SLP. I was introduced to Orofacial Myofunctional Therapy (OMT). This type of therapy deals more specifically with swallowing, sucking, chewing, eating, breathing, lisps, tongue thrusts and tongue ties. I dove into the course, which took a year, and got my license and credentialing in Orofacial Myofunctional Disorders (OMD). The knowledge I have gained during this path of life has really helped me become more passionate about my career and look at new and exciting ways to assess and treat my patients. I am blessed to have the opportunity to work with some great clinicians and wonderful patients and Functional Pathways has allowed me to do so.”

Mia Fioranelli-Greer, M.Ed., CCC-SLP 

For more information on speech therapy and how it can benefit you, please contact the Functional Pathways Therapy Team.


May is Arthritis Awareness Month

It’s odd to say Arthritis Awareness, because if you have one of the over 100 medical conditions that fall under the diagnosis of Arthritis you are probably aware of arthritis everyday and every night. While no cure for arthritis has been developed yet, with much research, medical science has improved its understanding for the causes of arthritis and better treatments including new medications for pain and inflammation relief have been developed. Exercise that emphasizes stretching, strengthening, and cardiovascular has an important role in the improvement and continuing function of daily activities. The Arthritis Foundation sponsors research, educational programs, exercise programs, public awareness and advocacy efforts in Congress. Through their Live Yes Program, The Arthritis Foundation offers several resources and virtual events to help people manage their disease and live their best life with arthritis by keeping people informed on new products, diet, exercise and medications. 

Arthritis affects over 54 million people in the US and two-thirds are under the age of 65. Over 300,000 families deal with arthritis in children under the age of 16. The Arthritis Foundation has been fighting juvenile arthritis and supporting families for more than 60 years. Every year they invest more than $4.5 million in outreach and research that advances treatments and will lead to a cure. Two of our exercise classes are sponsored through the Arthritis Foundation: Basic Water Aerobics on Tuesday/Thursdays at 9:30, Sit and Stand Class Tuesday/Thursdays in the PAC at 11. Interest in the Arthritis Foundation exercise programs brought Mary Hand to teach classes at Kirby Pines ten years ago. 

In support of the Arthritis Foundation, we are planning a Bake Sale on May 18 from 9 to 2 and our own Walk to Cure here at Kirby Pines on May 25 at 10:30. We need your help. Baked goods for the sale, volunteers to run the sale, and customers to purchase our delicious offerings. Then on the day of our walk we will need volunteers to help at our registration table and walkers to participate. We will have a course marked for around the lake and another course for inside walkers. Water and healthy refreshments will be served following the walk. Please join with our family at Kirby Pines to support the Arthritis Foundation with financial gifts and physical support. 

Last year we raised over $1000 for the Arthritis Foundation. We can make a difference when we team up to Walk to Cure Arthritis. Let’s show our support physically and financially. 

How can you help? Here is what we need: 

May 18th – Bakers and bringers of goodies, helpers for set up and sales, and customers. 

Participants for the walk on May 25th. Sign up with Mary Hand in the Oasis or by email at programs@nullkirbypines.com 

Contributors and supporters 

Volunteers to help with registration and serving refreshments for the walk at Kirby Pines May 25th. 

Thank you for making this fundraiser a success every year. 

 


Celebrating Our Mother’s at Kirby Pines

It’s that time of the year when we stop and honor those who many say has been the most influential person in their life, their mothers. These women not only raised us to be who we are today, but along the way they taught us many things about being good citizens in the community in which we live. There were times when our mothers taught us by example, and other times when they told us about others who were doing something extra to make their community a better place to live. We are who we are today because of what our mothers instilled in us as children, nurtured in us as young adults, and for which they praised us as we grew. 

This May in our large display cabinet opposite the Blossom Shop, we pay tribute to our mothers who taught us how to be who we are today. And while the cabinet is certainly not large enough to have a photo or momentum of everyone’s mother, it certainly can give us a glimpse of dozens of women who help shaped the future by raising children with empathy, work ethics, and the spirit of community. 

So on May 7, when Kirby Pines holds its annual Mother’s Day Cookout on our beautiful park-like grounds, remember that we, too, are doing our part to better the community. The cookout is, after all, not just about food and fun, but about honoring the people in our lives who raised us to be good citizens, and to give something back to the community in which we live. 

Michael Escamilla,
Executive Director,
Kirby Pines


Reflections by Maxie Dunnam

KISS AN ARTIST TODAY 

I’m intrigued by bumper stickers. I sometimes get dangerously close to a car in order to see what is being proclaimed on the bumper sticker.

A recent sticker got my immediate attention, “Kiss an artist today.” That’s easy for me. My wife and my daughter are artists.

But the thought is expansive. I began to reflect. I remembered a story John Powell told about two priests who experienced a rich and
rewarding friendship. They struggled together through the wilderness of long seminary training and worked together in a community ministry.

Then one of the two friends was hit by a car and killed in front of their residence. The other knelt at the side of his old friend, gently
cradled the brother’s head on his arm, and before all the people who had gathered blurted out, “Don’t die! You can’t die! I never told you I loved you.”

It could happen to any one of us, but it need not. Before this day ends, do two things. One, even if you have to call them on the phone or write them a note, tell a person you have not told recently that you love them. Two, for a person you are always telling you love, do something that will validate your words.

Drive carefully, but pay attention to those bumper stickers. Just today I read this one: Don’t believe everything you think.

-Maxie Dunnam  


Congratulations to Our Employee of the Month

Rudy Selmon

Floor Tech

Describe your family: Loving and caring.

Describe yourself in five words: Loving, caring, respectful, honest and helpful.

What is something you are proud of:  Being part of the Kirby Pines Environmental Services Team.

What do you do for fun: Perform on stage with my band. 

Do you have any hobbies or interests: Playing guitar.

What is your favorite food: Chicken.  Favorite song: The Thrill Is Gone by B.B. King.

What is your favorite thing about your job: I get along with everybody. 

What would you like people to know about you:  That I am very kind and easy to get along with.

Rudy exemplifies the values that Kirby stands for integrity, patience, kindness and community. He is never self-serving and can always be counted on to go above and beyond to provide the best care for our residents. He treats everyone like family and has never meet a stranger. My department and Kirby are proud to have Rudy on our team.

Jada Mullins, Director of Environmental Services


Resident Spotlight: Joe & Geneva Jackson

A LIFE FULL OF LOVE

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


What Exactly is Occupational Therapy

April is Occupational Therapy Month! But what IS Occupational Therapy (OT)? In simple terms, OT teaches you how to adapt. If your ability to perform your everyday responsibilities is ever impacted due to an illness or injury, occupational therapy can help. Those everyday responsibilities may have included going to work in earlier years, but now it may include attending exercise classes, venturing out on the walking trails, or participating in social events like the Lunch Bunch. OT is a branch of skilled therapy that helps people regain independence in all areas of their lives, and helps with barriers that impact a person’s emotional, social, and/or physical needs. So, even if you’re retired, occupational therapy can still be beneficial for you! 

OTs use their knowledge of the structure and function of the human body and the effects of illness and injury to increase your involvement in daily activities. OTs teach individuals how to manage stress and fatigue and prevent re-injury. They are also the experts in home safety and fall prevention and can advise on environmental modifications or improvements. 

During therapy sessions, OTs will also work with the wellness and activities department to determine the best programs after your therapy is completed. This may include specific exercise classes and events, personal training, home exercise programs, or a combination of these services. Therapy partners with other departments to ensure you are engaging in the most appropriate and effective exercises and programming possible. For example, if you were receiving occupational therapy for trouble with grip strength, after being discharged, your therapist may recommend you start attending Pinecone Painters or Hobby Pines Group to continue to challenge and focus on exercising your hand and grip strength. 

Brittany Austin, National Director of Health and Wellness, Functional Pathways 


Working Out Through Pain

Learn when to keep moving through exercise pain and when to stop.

By Camille Noe Pagán

Exercise is crucial if you have arthritis. But knowing just how much activity to do when you’re hurting can be tricky. Research shows that moderate activity can help prevent the progression of arthritis and improve overall function. But while mild muscle soreness after a workout is normal, sharp pain during or immediately after can signal injury. And sometimes simply the fear of pain can keep you from wanting to do any kind of exercise. Here’s how to determine when it’s OK to work through exercise pain – and when it’s not. 

If you have mild to moderate pain in a specific joint area before you work out: Some mild pain is typical when you first start to move, but after a few minutes you’ll usually start to feel better, says A. Lynn Millar, PhD, a professor of physical therapy at Winston Salem State University. “Our joints and muscles get nutrition through movement,” she explains. “With some movement, you’ll improve the lubrication and circulation around that joint.” Start with some gentle range of motion movements and if that feels OK, progress to some low-impact activity like walking. 

If you have moderate to severe pain in a specific joint area before you work out: Focus on a different area for a day or two. If your knees hurt, decrease the intensity. If the pain becomes worse, then stop the lower body moves and work your upper body instead. “Continuing to put pressure on a joint when it’s especially sore could contribute to joint damage, so it’s best to ease up for a while,” says physical therapist Richard Kassler, supervisor at New York University Hospital for Joint Diseases. 

sitting on a yoga mat

If you have moderate to severe joint pain during exercise: Stop immediately. “Most people with arthritis can work through mild pain safely. But if you’re experiencing a lot of pain while you exercise, even if you’re not doing a particularly joint-taxing workout, it may be a sign that you have inflammation in the joint, or even joint damage that requires treatment,” says Kassler. 

If you consistently have joint pain (not muscle pain) after exercise: Switch to a workout that puts less pressure on your joints. “If you need an elaborate brace or have to pop ibuprofen constantly, it’s a pretty good sign that your activity is too hard on your joints. Swimming, water aerobics and biking are all good options for people with joint pain. 

If you occasionally have moderate to severe joint pain the day after you work out: Cut back on the intensity of your workout. Take a day off, then doing a shorter, less strenuous workout. If your pain still doesn’t let up, switch to a less intense form of exercise, such as water aerobics. 

Mary Hand’s favorite quote, ”No Pain, No Gain. That’s Insane. Listen to your body.” Our Arthritis Foundation exercise classes in the pool and in the PAC are good for everyone whether they have arthritis or not. Please consider joining us. See the schedule for times and places. 

-Camille Noe Pagán 

 


Easter Traditions Are Back at Kirby Pines

Peter Cottontail will certainly be busy around Kirby Pines once again. The early timing of Easter this year will not stop him from ensuring that spring flowers are in bloom throughout the community.

Our “Annual” Easter Egg Hunt is back! After a two-year rest this year’s egg hunt should be filled with the laughter and excitement of grandchildren, great grandchildren and even a few great, great grandchildren as they collect the hidden treasures Peter has left for them. Hopefully, you have helped him along the way by dyeing a few Easter eggs yourself.

Not to be out done by the Easter Bunny, our culinary team is planning a wonderful Easter Brunch. Of course, your family and friends are welcomed to join you. Simply call Skye Sanders to make a reservation. I am sure they’ll enjoy the food and company. Who knows, Peter Cottontail may even leave a hidden surprise to remind your guests of how special Kirby Pines truly is to everyone.

April brings to us not only the rebirth of Christ, but also the opportunity to remind ourselves how fortunate we are, as we read and learn of so many countries struggling at this time. So invite your families and friends to come visit and see for themselves why Kirby Pines is such a beautiful place to live. 

Michael Escamilla,
Executive Director,
Kirby Pines