30th anniversary

Category Archives: Nancy McKinney

  1. Bonded for Life

    Disconnected. That was how Pam Abasolo felt as she entered the hotel across the highway from her ill husband. Ken was admitted to the hospital near the end of July 2019. Pam and her adult girls, Erin and Hayli, stayed at a hotel across the highway, but given his condition, the hospital staff knew it wouldn’t be long. Once a room was available at Reba’s Ranch House, Pam met staff member Jeri Carosella, and knew they’d found a home to weather this storm.

    A room with a nautical theme

    They stayed in a room with a nautical theme that related to Lt. Kenneth Abasolo’s 22 years of service as a Navy Seal. Before that, he was decorated for his underwater demolition work in Vietnam. The room is sponsored by Mark and Kris McKinney in honor of Nancy McKinney who helped establish Reba’s Ranch House through her volunteer work.

    The ranch house reminded the girls of the early days of Pam and Ken’s 10 years of marriage when he would take them on weekend trips. The home-like atmosphere gave them permission to rest, knowing they were a very short distance from Ken if they got the call.

    An opportunity for bonding

    “To be able to go to the hospital room and then come back to Reba’s Ranch House, just the three of us, added a layer of serenity and bonding to the situation we could not have had otherwise,” Pam says. “The hotel wasn’t the same; it’s industrial, it doesn’t have that spirit of comfort and peace over it.”

    As Pam and her girls endured weeks of angst and turmoil, Jeri was there for them. She shared the story of her husband’s passing the previous year, and prayed for Pam whenever she needed it.

    “Jeri was so welcoming, so understanding of our position,” Pam says. “I love people, but there are certain ones that the moment you meet them, you know you’re going to stay in touch, that they are part of your life’s fabric.”

    Support when it was needed most

    When Ken passed at the hospital in mid-August, it was a heartbreaking time. But Pam and her girls were able to support one another.

    “Erin lives in Boise, Idaho, and for her to even be there with us in that beautiful environment and bond even over something like Ken’s death was an experience that couldn’t have been duplicated in a hotel room,” Pam says.

    Before leaving Reba’s Ranch House, Pam purchased three pottery mugs for them to remember the time they shared. It was especially meaningful when Pam learned the money went to support the Room for Hope at Reba’s Ranch House. She is a three-year breast cancer survivor.

    Pam and Jeri share a bond understood by those who have been through the trauma of losing their husband.

    “Jeri struck a chord with all of us,” Pam says. “Meeting her felt like a divine appointment, as did our stay at Reba’s Ranch House.”

  2. She Adjusted Her Sails

    “I’ll be back and marry you someday, Nancy.”

    That is what young Ben McKinney told teenage Nancy Foreman after they spent two summers in Canada with her teaching him how to sail. He was a teenager himself from Little Rock, Ark., who had taken trips to Canada with family friends. The father of the family told Ben that Nancy was the one to learn from when it came to sailing. She was a water baby, spending most of her time on lakes and oceans in sailboats, canoes, and powerboats.

    Ben did indeed marry that sailing girl on June 3, 1944. But their honeymoon was cut short with D-Day on June 6, and Ben was called to ship out. He served in the U.S. Navy during World War II, and in the Korean War.

    Married for 68 years

    Over the course of their 68 years of marriage, Ben and Nancy had four children, including a son named Mark. Nancy developed a close relationship with a young girl in her neighborhood, Kristine (Kris) who became her dear friend — and daughter-in-law.

    “I have known Nancy all my life,” Kris says. “Mark and I married 20 years ago. His mom had fixed us up!”

    Founding members from 1987

    Nancy and Kris served together on the original development committee that raised money for the foundation that built Reba’s Ranch House of which Kris was the first chairman. They met Reba McEntire during the initial fundraising concert in 1987.

    “She was thanking us more than we could thank her,” Kris says. “She was so humble, she’s such a star and such a force. You could tell she had this big heart to help others. It cemented everything about what we were doing.”

    Ben passed in 2012, and in 2017, at 96 years old, Nancy’s health rapidly declined. Kris and Mark began thinking of ways to honor her life.

    “We decided doing something at the Ranch House where she had worked so hard was a fitting tribute,” Kris says. “She was a role model, always doing things for others, and never met a stranger. What better place for her legacy to be than somewhere that does the exact same thing.”

    Honoring Nancy in a unique room

    Nancy passed in December 2017, but her presence is still felt in Reba’s Ranch House. The room, with its nautical theme, showcases photos of Nancy and her family doing what she loved — sailing.

    “And when the wind did not blow her way, she adjusted her sails.”

    “When our grandkids come to visit us in Denison, they can see the legacy of their great-grandmother,” Kris says. “If you know something about the person beyond their headstone, it makes them come to life.”

    Nancy’s hard work continues to bless others. Pam Abasolo, a recent guest, endured the passing of her husband in the hospital in 2019. The nautical room gave Pam and her girls a place to weather one of the worst storms of their lives.

    Consider a sponsorship

    If you would like to consider sponsoring a room at Reba’s Ranch House, please reach out to director Marilyn Bice at 903-463-7322.