What is LEAVE A LEGACY
Long After her Death, St. Louis Woman
Mary Ranken Jordan with some
of the hospitalís
Caring for Sick Children
By Diane B. Ludwig
I work for a woman who is 132 years old. She is
gone now. Yet, she is very much alive. She lives on
in the smiles of the children who benefit from her
legacy and in the hearts and minds of those who
protect and nurture that legacy. She would surely
reprimand me for writing about her because she
loathed publicity and wanted to do her giving
privately. I admire her and want to tell you about
what she has done for the children of St. Louis.
Mary Ranken was born in Northern Ireland in June of
1869. She came to America as a teenager in 1885 to
live with her uncles after the death of both of her
parents. She married Clay Jordan, a prominent St.
Louis merchant, in 1905.
By the late 1930ís, Mary Ranken Jordan had become a
strong community advocate and philanthropist. She
and her husband had no children of their own. Mrs.
Jordan had a real wish to help children, especially
those with medical needs.
After many visits with prominent pediatricians of
the day, she was advised that what children in St.
Louis needed was a place to convalesce from the
ravages of polio, osteomyelitis and bone
tuberculosis. A quiet, cool, restful place in the
country with good medical care was just what the
Armed with that information, Mrs. Jordan researched
the country to find the best models for childrenís
services and then planned a state-of-the-art
facility. She chose a gently rolling site with
flowering shrubs and pine trees in the country west
of Lindbergh Boulevard. With the counsel of the
finest physicians and architects, she built the
Ranken Jordan Home for Convalescent Crippled
Children, far from the soot and heat and noise of
the city. April 9, 1941 was a grand day when the
home opened to its first children. Mrs. Jordan was
there to personally welcome them.
With most of the children in plaster casts and no
air conditioning, many summer nights were spent
sleeping on the roofs of porches built especially
for that purpose. Children came and were given the
best possible care. As their bodies healed, they
went on their way and others arrived to fill
Ranken Jordan facility
comfort and care to
We look at photos of those early days and see a
woman who created this wonderful home and stayed
involved. She visited regularly to have tea and talk
with the children. She knew their names and rejoiced
when they returned to their families. She made a
difference in their lives.
Today, 60 years later,
Mary Ranken Jordan is still making a
difference. Her dream of caring for children with
medical needs remains strong. Upon her death in
1962, Mrs. Jordan left a sizable endowment to
maintain her dream. This astute vision and careful
financial planning have allowed the organization to
The home, now referred to as the Ranken Jordan
Pediatric Rehabilitation Center, still accepts new
patients each week as others leave. Some say Mrs.
Jordan still visits regularly, too. One thing has
changed, though: there is no more sleeping on the
roof; air conditioners took care of that. Vaccines
and medical advancements did away with polio and
bone tuberculosis. Now, caregivers at the home
specialize in treating birth defects, head injuries,
burns, pre-natal drug exposure, orthopedic
disorders, developmental delays, failure to thrive,
and a host of other health challenges
Our budget is not the same either. Back in 1941, the
homeís total expenses for its first year were just
over $15,100. Today, costs average $8,200 per day.
Yes, Medicaid and private insurance pay their parts
and private fundraising helps. Without the endowment
fund established by Mrs. Jordan and the fundís
annual income to close the gap, the doors would
close. Health care costs have escalated to rates
beyond Mrs. Jordanís comprehension. Yet, her vision
for the children lives on because she created the
home and endowed it for the future. We do have a
future because of her forward thinking.
LEAVE A LEGACYģ wishes to thank the
Ranken Jordan Pediatric Rehabilitation Center for sharing