Coming into the world on New Year’s Day of 1899 must have been a sign that Marjorie P. Lee was destined to do something great. One of three children of The Reverend Stuart B. and Mary W. Purves, Marjorie moved to Cincinnati at the age of 11, eventually graduating from Hughes High School in 1916 and the University of Cincinnati in 1920.
Charles Shepard Lee was born 10 years before Marjorie. He graduated from Harvard University and served as a captain in WWI before returning to Cincinnati. Marjorie and Charles met in the summer of 1920. Friends shared that it was a case of opposites attract. She was warm, outgoing and playful and he was reserved and formal. They wed in 1922.
While Charles spent his career as a venture capitalist and with the Procter and Gamble Company, Marjorie devoted herself to volunteer service. In 1951, Eleanor Holmes, a devoted Episcopalian and social worker, saw a need to find housing for 15 destitute ladies. After some negotiations and planning, she secured a $25,000 gift (the equivalent of $200,000 today) from Bishop Henry Hobson of the Diocese of Southern Ohio to purchase a home in Clifton.
Marjorie was asked to serve on the Memorial Homes Foundation Board to oversee the operations of the Bishop Reese Home. She quickly fell in love with the residents, referring to them as her “dear ladies.” She once remarked, “Don’t thank me. These ladies have given me more pleasure than I have given them.”
Tragically, Marjorie was diagnosed with terminal cancer in 1960. She confided in Bishop Hobson her wish, “When I die, I don’t want Charles to put up a tablet or stained glass window in my memory. I want him to build the finest possible home for elderly people that can be provided.” Together, they approached Charles. Charles fulfilled her request and the Marjorie P. Lee community opened on Shaw Ave. in Hyde Park in 1963, originally serving 60 elderly women.
Throughout the remainder of his lifetime, Charles made major contributions to assist with the operation and maintenance of Marjorie P. Lee. He also provided a generous endowment to the Trustees of the Diocese of Southern Ohio, stipulating that its income be used for the exclusive purpose of assisting with the operation, maintenance, repair, renovation and restoration of the Marjorie P. Lee community.
In 1985, The Memorial Homes Foundation changed its name to Episcopal Retirement Services. Today, ERS owns and/or manages 30 senior living communities: Marjorie P. Lee, Deupree House and Cottages, and Episcopal Church Home in Louisville along with 27 affordable communities across Ohio, Kentucky, and Indiana. ERS also provides services to seniors who live beyond the walls of our communities through Parish Health Ministry, Deupree Meals On Wheels, and Living Well Senior Solutions.
It’s been nearly 70 years since Marjorie shared her dying wish with Charles. Could they ever have dreamed that thousands of lives would have been, and will continue to be, transformed thanks to their vision and philanthropic leadership?