The Honorary Grandparent

Marilyn and Jackson may seem like an odd pair. Marilyn, with her soft eyes, graying hair and gentle voice, appears to be an unlikely companion for a tall, spirited 7-year-old like Jackson. And yet they share a special bond.

The sweet and simple necklace that Marilyn wears holds the key to their relationship. It is a replica of her late husband Ken’s thumbprint. It was Ken who first brought the two together through Ebenezer Ridges, which is part of Fairview.

Finding joy in a new home

After suffering a massive stroke at the age of 80, Ken required round-the-clock care and moved into Ebenezer Ridges Care Center. For the three years he lived there, Marilyn faithfully visited him, staying each day from breakfast to bedtime, keeping him company and volunteering throughout the Ebenezer community.

Now, a few years after Ken’s death, Marilyn remains a staple on campus, both as an invaluable volunteer and as a beloved honorary grandma.

“One of Ken’s favorite parts of the week was spending time with the children, especially in the MacPhail music class,” recalls Marilyn. “It became a reprieve—even when he struggled to speak, Ken was always able to vocalize through music. And he so loved the enthusiasm the kids brought to each session. Jackson in particular brought him great joy.”

Creating enrichment for young and old

These special interactions were made possible by Ebenezer Ridges’ distinct intergenerational program. Designed to bring together the young and the young at heart, this unique community provides daily opportunities for children from the on-site child care program to interact with the senior residents of the Ebenezer Ridges campus.

Participants young and old alike benefit from the time together. Close relationships, between children and their senior counterparts, like the one Marilyn and Jackson share, are common.

“I love the experiences that Jackson is having here. He is exposed to so many people of different ages and ability levels and is learning to interact with—and enjoy—all of them,” says Emily, Jackson’s mom. “We thank God every day that we found this place.”

Magical moments like these are made possible in part through donations to Ebenezer Society Foundation.

In partnership with Fairview, Ebenezer provides access throughout Minnesota to a full range of senior housing options, community-based programs and medical care. Learn more at

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