“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.