By CHERIL VERNON
For the past 15 years, Joann Conner has proudly been called “The Donut Lady.”
Conner, 82, officially retired Monday during a reception from her position as volunteer coordinator at the Palestine Outpatient Clinic, which serves local veterans.
Every Monday, Conner has brought coffee and donuts and welcomed veterans who were at the clinic for doctor appointments.
“My husband was a veteran and at one time came to the clinic. I just appreciate all of the veterans for what they have done for us and this is just one little way that I could help,” Conner said during the reception.
Conner has been a member of the Frankston Veterans of Foreign Wars Ladies Auxiliary for more than 25 years, having served as president, district president, secretary, treasurer, hospital chairperson, volunteer coordinator and on many other committees.
She moved to Mesquite four years ago to live with her daughter and son-in-law but continued to volunteer her time in Palestine every Monday.
“That was my condition for moving to Dallas — that I still got to volunteer at the clinic here in Palestine,” Conner said with a smile.
Conner, a retired school teacher from the Richardson Independent School District, taught elementary children. She and her late husband had moved to the Frankston area in the late 1980s. They have four children — three daughters (two of whom belong to the Frankston VFW Ladies Auxiliary) and one son. Their children live in Garland, Mesquite and Mississippi. Two of her daughters — Karen and Debby — have been at the clinic passing donuts out to veterans with her. Conner has seven grandchildren and 13 great-grandchildren. She also is active in her church, Unity of Dallas, where she sings in the choir. She has one cat and two Chihuahua dogs.
Known also as “the little red-haired lady” at the clinic, Palestine Outpatient Clinic Nurse Manager Patti Beckendorf said Conner “lives and breathes red, white and blue.”
“She is like a second mother to me. She always remembers everyone's birthday and always makes time for everyone,” Beckendorf said. “Everyone in the clinic appreciates what she does.”
Conner also has had lap afghans made for the veterans and passed out fruit baskets at Christmas.
Now that she is “officially” retired, Conner plans to enjoy her free time quilting.
“I have six quilts waiting on me,” Conner joked. “I'll miss the veterans. I really enjoyed talking to them and for some of them, they didn't have anyone to talk to, so I enjoyed listening to their stories.”
Veteran Al Ayo wrote a special poem in Conner's honor.
Coffee my friend, is how she began
To keep us from being nervous
Donuts are free for Veterans you see
We thank you for your service
For many years these greetings you hear
as the Palestine VA Clinic you enter
These ladies here that we hold dear
Volunteer both Summer and Winter
It's not by chance, but planned in advance
By a lady who gives up her time
Who leads the way, to schedule the day
For each volunteer she can find
Her goal of good cheer, for 15 years
Oct. 28th she'll be gone
We send her a kiss, she will surely be missed
But the work she began, will leave on
Thank you, Joann
From Your Grateful Veterans
(Al Ayo, October 2013)
Moving into the volunteer coordinator position will be Carolina Shannon from League City/NASA area.
“She has big shoes to fill, but she'll do well,” Beckendorf said.
Just before Shannon's husband, Chuck, retired from working at NASA, she got a job working at a nursing home in Fairfield as a certified activity director.
“I am now retired and consider myself a professional volunteer since I volunteer in various assisted living facilities and nursing homes,” Shannon said. “I am very honored to serve as coordinator for The Doughnut Dollies at the Palestine VA Clinic. I look forward to working with the volunteers and serving our wonderful veterans. I thank them for their service.”
Shannon is a member of the Associates of Vietnam Veterans of America and the Disabled American Veterans Auxiliary, where she serves as chaplain.
“Please pray for me as I endeavor to fill Mrs. Joann Conner's shoes. I know that everyone will miss her and I wish her the best!” Shannon said.