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Friendships, Legacies

June 22, 2011 | Leslie Hill

Though they lived and work in similar circles, it took a neuroendocrine cancer diagnosis for Mary Anne Harwell and Jeannie Hastings to really get to know one another.

Jeannie and Mary Anne were diagnosed with neuroendocrine tumors of the colon within days of each other. Their husbands Jim Hastings and Jonny Harwell agree that it helped both women to know someone else diagnosed with the same rare cancer.

“Jeannie would have treatments and Mary Anne would come with her. Mary Anne’s friends became Jeannie’s friends and vice versa,” Hastings said.

Both women were devoted volunteers in the Nashville community, but instead of just worrying about their own health, they tried to find ways they could help Vanderbilt-Ingram Cancer Center. Noticing that the televisions in infusion rooms were outdated, they raised money to purchase 23 new TV/DVD combinations to replace the older equipment.

“During the first two months of Mary Anne’s treatment, the old machines were removed and the new ones were installed,” Harwell said. “Once Mary Anne focused on a problem, she believed in taking the necessary actions to get it done.”

Mary Anne worked for the Metro Development and Housing Agency and Broadway Revitalization Committee until the first of her two daughters was born. She continued with civic and charity work, including volunteering with Friends of Children’s Hospital, Junior League of Nashville, Tennessee Historical Society, Cheekwood and the Greater Nashville Arts Foundation.

Mary Anne died June 14, 2008, at age 55.

Jeannie, a mother of three sons, was a committed volunteer with the Nashville Symphony, Montgomery Bell Academy, Ensworth School and Calvary United Methodist Church. She was also an active partner in Hastings Architecture Associates, which she and Jim founded.

“She could walk in a room and light it up,” said Hastings. “She had the most wonderful personality and never met a stranger. Everybody was equal in her eyes, and she had friends in all walks of life.”

Jeannie died Aug. 3, 2007, at age 64.

After their deaths, friends and family were inspired to continue their good works and named an exam room for Jeannie and established a discovery grant in Mary Anne’s name.

“They would be extremely appreciative of these donations. Something good will definitely come out of this generosity,” Harwell said.