Brooklyn imports, Delta boosters
STORY BY JO ALICE DARDEN, PHOTOS BY JOHNNY JENNINGS
Barb and Dr. Ray Girnys have to be among the most enthusiastic cheerleaders for Greenwood and the Mississippi Delta who ever “immigrated” here from “Up North.
”The Girnyses were long-established New Yorkers, living the kind of fast-paced life in Brooklyn that we watch New York families live on TV — consuming jobs, unremitting stress, traffic, traffic, traffic. Barb was teaching; Ray was chief of staff at Lutheran Medical Center, responsible for 700 physicians and managing offices in Brooklyn and Staten Island. The couple had two sons in high school, and they were all active in their church and community.
Then the World Trade Center was attacked on 9/11/01. Staten Island was the refuge for the 500,000 people who evacuated Manhattan by water that day when all other escape routes out of New York were closed. And Ray’s hospital took all of the 400 or so injured evacuees that day.
That enormity of 9/11 and its aftermath caused Barb and Ray to think about how they wanted to continue their life together as a family.
“We saw how life could be wiped out in a moment,” Ray says. They thought of the constant stress of big-city life, the tremendous expense of medical malpractice insurance in New York and how little time they had to spend just being together, and they began to consider moving to a small town with a more relaxed pace. They did some homework, let the boys finish high school and consulted a headhunter.
Greenville, S.C., was originally their top choice. They arranged a trip to check out the town and the hospital where Ray might work.
“When we landed in Atlanta, the headhunter greeted us and told us the job [in Greenville] had just been taken,” Barb said.
But the headhunter offered an alternative: Greenwood.
“I used to skip rope in the second grade to a rhyme about the states, and I remember M-I-S-S-I-S-S-I-P-P-I most because it was the longest,” said Barb. “I never thought I’d live here!”
The Girnyses made the move in 2005.
“The Delta is a big group of genuine people,” Ray said. “We feel so at home.”
Ray, 56, serves as the chair of the department of surgery, a co-director (with Dr. Alain Domkam) of the Wound Care Center, the wound care director of the Long-Term Alternate Care Unit and a general surgeon, all at Greenwood Leflore Hospital.
Barb, 55, teaches nutrition to nursing students at Mississippi Delta Community College’s Greenwood Campus and teaches international cuisine for MDCC’s Culinary Arts Program in Greenwood. She is also a certified proctor and instructor for the ServSafe food safety program.
The outgoing couple decided from the beginning to become as involved as they could in their church and community organizations. They felt that was especially important because they had no family here, since their sons remained in New York, and they wanted to make a contribution to their adopted home.
Barb said they bonded instantly with their church, Immaculate Heart of Mary Catholic Church in Greenwood. Both she and Ray are Eucharistic ministers there and have taught Sunday school. Ray has joined the Men’s Group, which meets on Wednesdays at 6 a.m. for worship and fellowship.
He said he enjoys working behind the scenes and is active on several boards as an adviser and in some of the hospital’s social programs, and he participates in the Greenwood Mentoring Group and Parents for Public Schools.
Barb also likes community service and has joined Greenwood’s Altrusa Club. She has been the Astra Club (Altrusa’s high school-level affiliate) chairperson for the past two years.
Barb and Ray are each other’s best friend; they’re happiest when they are doing things together, like gardening and cooking.
“When I go out to lunch,” Barb said, “I miss Ray if he isn’t with me.”
They are members of the Greenwood Country Club, and Barb has taken up golf so she can join Ray on the club’s course occasionally. They enjoy taking long weekends on the Gulf Coast and meeting up with family at Disney World or at their time-share in New Jersey.
When Ray travels to take Continuing Medical Education courses, Barb often goes with him. They’ve been to CME conferences in Puerto Rico, San Francisco, New Orleans, Chicago, Las Vegas and other exciting venues.
The first year the Girnyses were here, they started an annual tradition they’ve continued — a Fourth of July “barbecue” at their home.
“We do all the cooking,” Barb said. “When people ask what they can bring, I tell them Tupperware to take stuff home in.”
“We have three rules for this ‘barbecue,’” Ray explained: “No barbecue, no casseroles, and no business conversations.”
The invitation list has expanded each year, and 2013 will see further additions: Barb’s brother, a podiatrist, and his wife have recently moved to Greenwood.
This year the Girnyses will add another event to their hosting calendar. Their older son, Ray Jr., 26, an attorney, is getting married in November in New York, and they are hosting a celebration for the newlyweds and the bride’s family here in December. Their younger son, Matthew, 25, will attend, too; he’s an electrical engineer in New York, and one of the projects his firm is handling is the World Trade Center rebuild.
“We are so grateful they both have fantastic jobs,” Barb said. “And our son and his bride, Kelley, are best friends, too.”