Leaving a Legacy of Care and Commitment, Jeanne Russell Retires from Home Instead Senior Care
In December 1996, the Shenandoah Valley unknowingly inherited a natural leader in our community. Transplants from San Diego, Jeanne Russell and her husband, Tony, made the Shenandoah Valley their home. It was a combination of circumstances that brought Jeanne and Tony to Spottswood, stemming from their underlying desire to retire from the hassle and battering of the corporate world where they both had built their careers. The location of their future home was molded by four basic desires: a place with four seasons, being closer to family, an equestrian friendly area, and something that would have more of an English feel for native Englishman, Tony. After two years of searching, followed by a 10 day, 1800 mile trip touring Central Virginia, they fell in love with the Lexington area. It was the essence of Lexington at 6:45 in the morning that spoke to them, “quaint and so ‘English looking’”, as Jeanne describes.
First impressions of the Shenandoah Valley for Jeanne: natural beauty, friendly, trustworthy, and a slower pace, all very different from the big cities in Colorado, Texas, and California to which she was accustomed. It did not take long for roots and friendships to develop. Their property came to life and they were quickly targeted as “horse people” once a new barn and fences were put into place. A close neighbor was their first visitor, stopping by one day to invite them to lunch. Instant connections were made and Spottswood became home.
The term “adjusting” was an understatement for the 40 year old career driven woman that just quit her job, moved across the country, didn’t know anyone in a new community, and sadly, simultaneously also lost her best friend unexpectedly. However, it was quite possibly the uncertainty of this time that ultimately mapped out the next phase of her professional aspirations. Jeanne enrolled in a hospice class, “Death and Dying,” through Augusta Health to help her sort out her grief over the loss of her friend. A simple class led to her becoming a hospice volunteer, which then led to committee work for the first “Grace for Kids”, better known today as “Camp Dragonfly”. This involvement then transitioned to an invitation on the hospice board where Jeanne was involved in her first discussion of the community’s desire to build a hospice house.
It was once again the perfect storm of events that spurred Jeanne’s commitment and leadership to build a hospice house in Augusta County. Just as the words hospice house were being brainstormed within her committee work, Tony’s mother in England was dying, and Tony left immediately to spend time with her. It so happened that this precious time with his mother was not only quality time but a time that left Tony with a great sense of peace. This time was spent in a hospice house. A community ambition, plus a now personal testimony from Tony, launched Jeanne’s will to help build a hospice house.
Community collaboration, thousands of volunteer hours, and seven years later the doors of the Shenandoah House opened in November 2007. Pam Huggins, community volunteer and former Chair of the Augusta Health Hospice Board, states it best: “I won’t even try to list all of the projects and efforts to address the needs of our residents and their families Jeanne has led, but I will point to one shining example. It is not an overstatement to say that we would not have the beautiful Shenandoah House if it were not for Jeanne! Helping families who are dealing with heart-wrenching physical and emotional challenges is clearly one of her significant legacies in this area.”
Helen Keller famously said, “When one door of happiness closes, another opens; but often we look so long at the closed door that we do not see the one which has been opened for us.” For Jeanne Russell, when one door closes, another opportunity presents itself and Jeanne runs towards it. She does not look at the closed doors but is always looking for the next opportunity to help others, advocate for those in need, and make our communities stronger and better places to live. Pam Huggins goes on to say, “When I first met Jeanne on the local Hospice Board, I knew our community had received a priceless gift when she and Tony decided to move here. I have worked with some amazing people in the community service world, who continue to inspire me. Jeanne ranks at the very top of that list!”
It was while Jeanne was giving a presentation about the hospice house at a Chamber of Commerce business breakfast that a gentleman approached her following the presentation. This gentleman wanted to help bring the dream of the hospice house to fruition and joined their board. This gentleman happened to be Don Wells, the owner, at that time, of Home Instead Senior Care. It was this relationship that opened the next door of opportunity for Jeanne as she was invited to be the Marketing Director of Home Instead Senior Care.
“Jeanne has had the greatest impact on the branding of our company by being a true guardian of who Home Instead is: a solution for families in need of senior care services”, states Roger Boles, current owner of Home Instead Senior Care. “She has relayed a consistent and relentless message both internally to our staff and externally to our community, and we are grateful for her service.” It has been not only in this current role that Jeanne has truly engrained herself successfully promoting Home Instead, but she has also shown talents that have proved invaluable in the counties of Rockingham, Augusta, and Rockbridge. She has joined numerous committees, led many new ventures, and captured the respect and friendship of many.
Jeanne will tell you that she is happiest on her farm with Tony and all of her animals. One cannot deny witnessing the beams of happiness she has when she talks about the great adventures that take place on any given day on her farm. Donna Mattejat, Human Resource Manager for Home Instead, shares one of her fondest memories when Jeanne and Tony hosted a staff picnic at their farm—to include a hayride, cherry picking, seeing an array of wildlife, and learning firsthand the great stewards Jeanne and Tony are of their land.
Jeanne’s legacy of care and commitment and the handprint that she has made in our community will not be forgotten. We wish Jeanne well as she opens the next door of her life journey that has been presented to her: caring for her parents. Once again, she continues to build her legacy of care and commitment, embracing this next chapter with grace and vigor.