Family and friends gathered in the meeting room of the facility to celebrate the induction of the heroes into The Hall of Fame Cafe. Refreshments were served to the approximately 75 attendees.
A slide show depicted the life of each inductee with photos as their bios were read, then each one was presented with a certificate of honor.
The purpose of the Hometown Heroes program is to “change the landscape of long-term care forever, said Tiffany Sawyer, RN and administrator, who welcomed visitors. Holli Griffith gave the history of the Hall of Fame. A poem was read in honor of the Hometown Heroes.
Sherry Hammett sang “Born to Be,” a tribute to the residents of Signature.
The Hall of Fame Café was envisioned by Signature HealthCARE corporate in alignment with the vision of the company to “care for and honor our residents, and recognize the excellence of our stakeholders and community leaders.” The program was launched in thesummer of 2003.
John Duncan was born on Jan. 29, 1928, in Cleveland, to Harold and Nina Duncan. He has two older sisters, Martha and Louise, who currently live in the Cleveland area.
After graduating from high school, Duncan attended the University of Tennessee and later entered the Navy, where he served on the USS Saipan, a Navy aircraft carrier, during World War II. He also served at the LTA (lighte-than-air) station in Lakehurst, N.J., during his time in the Navy and received several commendations while in the military service.
After completing his service in the Navy, John met the love of his life and married Geneva Duncan in 1946. They were married for about 40 years before Geneva passed away in 1986. Their son, David, currently lives in Yukon, Okla., and their daughter Nancy, lives in Nashville.
Duncan has an extensive work background. After leaving the Navy and marrying Geneva, he worked at Dupont for seven years as an engineer. He then took a position as vice president/general manager of Keller Industries in Atlanta, where he worked for more than 20 years. John then decided to go into business for himself and was owner/operator of Duncan Feed and Farm Supply in Niota for 25 years. There he manufactured and distributed all types of feed for local farmers and suppliers.
Duncan has also been very involved in his community. He oversaw the building of the McMinn County Senior Center and served as chairman of the board for three years. Since moving to Cleveland, he remains involved in the Bradley County Senior Center and enjoys dancing, playing golf and fishing.
When asked what accomplishment he is most proud of, John says he is very proud of the work he did with the McMinn County Senior Center. Besides overseeing the construction of the center, he also played a very important role in the fundraising efforts to get the center built. Seniors today — and seniors to come — will reap the benefits of his hard work.
Noel Chance was born on Sept. 6, 1925, in Winterhaven, Fla. He is the older of two boys born to Henry and Annie Chance. His father passed away when Mr. Chance was just 7 years old and, with a mother unable to cope, he and his infant brother were placed in an orphanage to be adopted by his uncle.
They moved to Georgia where he remained until he was 17 and decided to travel the world. He thought the Navy would offer him the best opportunity, so before graduating high school Chance enlisted.
He served during World War II working on a landing ship used to carry significant quantities of vehicles, cargo and troops.
He spent most of the war stationed off of China in the Pacific, which was his favorite of all the places he was stationed. While serving in the Navy, Chance worked as a commisarian 1st class. He says his favorite food to cook was any type of meat, but primarily chicken.
Chance enjoyed being stationed on bigger battleships as there was always something to do. The largest crew he cooked for was on the Battleship USS Iowa with a crew of 3,500. After serving 20 years he retired from the Navy.
When asked if he ever planned to stay 20 years, he laughs and says, “I joined it, I liked it, I stayed.” He took two weeks off “to be lazy” before getting back to work. He then accepted a position working for his uncle at Publix’s food store in Winterhaven, Fla., as a butcher. He worked for 13 years before retiring to do as he says, “whatever I wanted,” and has been enjoying his retirement ever since.
Chance married Elizabeth Mann when he was 21 years old and they were together for 18 years before she passed away. A few years later he married Elizabeth Hagan whom he remained married to for more than 20 years before becoming a widower again. He has two stepsons, also, whom he loves dearly.
James Gilbert Collins was born on Feb. 2, 1919, in Chattanooga. Maybe the street he was born on is what determined his nickname, “Gib.”
At the age of 7, his family moved him and his other six siblings to a farm in Birchwood. Collins still has two siblings: Blanch who lives in Cleveland, and Harry, the youngest, who lives in Georgetown.
Collins married Leola Hickman on March 22, 1941. They were members of the Birchwood Baptist Church. Also, in that year, he joined the U.S. Army and was stationed at Fort Benning, Columbus, Ga.
He served his country for five years and during his tour of duty, he participated in the training of the “90 Day Wonders” officer training. His squadron was sent to Iceland for three months before boarding a Russian boat to England. From England, they went to Germany, walking from town to town — staying in one area for only a few days at a time.
Of the German people, Collins said, “They’re really nice people when they stop shooting at you.”
Collins had been sending money back to his bride while on his tour of duty. He remembers sending her a letter just before he got out, stating that he wanted to buy a car with the money he had sent her. She responded, however, that she had spent all of the money. She had purchased a 40-acre farm and was waiting for his return.
He began his civilian career working at U.S. Stove in Chattanooga, and retired in 1981. He also worked at G&P Office Machines in Athens from 1981-1989.
One day, on his way home from work, Collins stopped at a local store. Inside the store, two men approached him and convinced to run in the upcoming election for a County Commission seat. He was elected to the Meigs County Commission on Sept. 1, 1972. He served as county commissioner for Meigs County for 12 years and returned on Aug. 30, 1986.
Collins retired to take care of his first grandson and enjoy life on his farm. He enjoyed staying busy on his farm, mending fences, plowing with his tractor, and raising cattle and tobacco. With all of the opportunities and events in his life, he is most proud of his wife of 60 years, Leola Collins, who passed on Dec. 25, 2005. He has two daughters, Barbara and Janice, who live in the Cleveland area with their children and grandchildren.
LaWayne Taylor was born on July 8, 1943, in Gainesville, Ga. He is the oldest of three children born to Arthur and Mildred Taylor and spent his entire childhood living in Gainesville.
At 17 and fresh out of high school, Taylor chose to join the U.S. Navy. After one year of service he joined the training group to become a Navy Seal. Taylor willingly endured the 18 weeks of the grueling training to become a member of this elite group.
He noted that the sixth week was the most difficult, as you had to spend an entire week without sleep. They were taken out into the jungle where they were given a tent and a book of matches to survive. He watched many good soldiers fail during such an intensive training process and in the end, a mere 81 out of 300 candidates became members of the distinguished group.
Taylor served a total of 12 years in the U.S. Navy, serving in two tours of the Vietnam War working on a recovery crew. He was instrumental in picking up astronauts on two different occasions whose spacecraft landed in the Pacific Ocean upon returning after space exploration missions. During all his time in the Navy, Taylor is the most proud of being a Navy Seal as it is “not for wimps!” He feels his biggest accomplishment was becoming a petty officer 2nd class.
Mr. Taylor attended San Diego State College in North Island, Calif., where he received his associate of arts in business. He accepted a position with Cummings Trucking Service in Redding, Calif., where he worked as a diesel mechanic for 20 years until relocating to Cleveland. Here he owned and operated his own diesel mechanic shop called “Highway 60 Diesel Service” for more than 11 years. Upon retirement, he has enjoyed spending his days golfing and fishing.
Mary Walkins was born in Trinidad, West Indies, to Bishop and Mrs. Edward Walkins. For her schooling, she attended St. Joseph’s Convent in Trinidad. She received her bachelor of science degree from Lee University and earned her doctorate at Northeastern University in Boston.
Dr. Walkins has been a faculty member of Lee University since 1992, with the exception of the years 2002-04. Her duties include teaching general education core mathematics courses, training students who are aspiring to teacher licensure and goint on to graduate studies in mathematics. She also serves as a Strengths Vocational Advisor, which aids students in developing academic programs and life/career paths.
In early 1999, Walkins started visiting a colleague’s father at Royal Care of Cleveland (now Signature HealthCare of Cleveland. As she started singing in his room, her voice traveled down the hallway. A staff member heard the beautiful sound and sought to find out from where it came. She saw a 5-foot-2-inch lady singing and immediately proceeded to inquire if she could sing for a group at the facility. Mary graciously accepted and has been committed ever since!
Walkins has been volunteering at the facility for more than 12 years, visiting residents on a weekly basis, every Wednesday at 4:15 p.m. Mary has rarely missed an opportunity. As long as she is in town, she faithfully shares with the residents both individually and in group settings. She says, “My passion is to minister to the seniors through care-giving, singing songs, encouraging words, and prayers.”
She added, “I am always amazed to see the effect and power of a song to calm an individual who needs comfort and peace.”
A former resident’s daughter wrote these words to Walkins: “I will never forget your beautiful voice singing ‘Amazing Grace’ in my mom’s room.”
Walkins has also been sought out by residents’ families to sing at their loved ones’ funeral services. She has a heart to bring comfort to hurting family members of residents as well.
It brings Walkins great fulfillment and pleasure to encourage residents and meet them at the point of their need. Her commitment to community service and volunteerism extends much wider than her dedication at Signature. She is a volunteer math tutor on a bi-weekly basis for the local Learning Center for Adults and Families; she holds a church service every Sunday at Morningside Assisted Living Center and leads worship on a weekly basis for Life Care’s long-term facility here in Cleveland.
Walkins’ motto is: “If I can help somebody as I pass along, then my labor shall not be in vain.” She says, “It is my distinct joy and privilege to serve g at SHCC, and God willing, I look forward to volunteering and ministering for many more years to come!”
Karen Michelle Lamon was born on Feb. 16 1977, to Steve and Dinah Ellis. She has one sister, Angie Hicks. She graduated in 1995 from Bradley Central High School. She married her high school sweetheart Heith Lamon in January 1997. The couple welcomed twin boys, Caleb and Nathaneal, in 1999. They were recently blessed with the opportunity to parent a beautiful 2-year-old baby girl, Kierra, whom they are in the process of adopting.
Lamon has devoted her entire adult work life to serving others, whether it has been residents, family members or other staff members. She began her career at Signature Healthcare in March of 1996. She was hired as a CNA on second shift. She has since held positions as a certified activities director, restorative nurses aide and staffing and central supply coordinator. Lamon is now business office manager and is recognized companywide for maintaining the best business office statistics in the company.
Lamon has received numerous awards including perfect attendance for multiple years. She was a Signature Healthcare Excellence Award winner in March of 2009. In 2009 and 2010, she was awarded the Champions Award for Signature Healthcare. She has completed her Adult Learning Certification for levels 1 and 2 through the company.
She is also actively involved in the community. She is the team captain for the Clingan Ridge Baptist Church branch for the Relay for Life campaign, which raises money for cancer awareness. Also, she is involved with her church’s puppet ministry and sings with the Neely Family, a gospel music group. She teaches Sunday school at her church as well.
Lamon is a devoted, loyal, and compassionate person. She does everything with excellence. Karen’s focus is God, family and work. She truly defines servant leadership. Her stated vision is to “never lose the compassion I had my first day on the job, because with compassion you are not only able to help others, but are humble enough to help yourself.”
EDITOR’S NOTE: Biographical information was provided by Signature HealthCare Chaplain Carl J. Caffrey.