From left, Mommie & Me Class Representative, Mary Shows; Madalene Daniell’s family, Sarah Piazza, Breck Daniell, Christy Daniell, Abby Kate Daniell, and Forrest Health Vice President, Millie Swan.
HATTIESBURG, Miss. – (October 6, 2021) Madalene Daniell is remembered as a caring woman with a vivacious smile who touched the lives of many women and children during her 44 years as instructor of Forrest General Hospital’s Spirit of Women “Fitness for Two” programs. On Wednesday, October 6, just two short months after Madalene’s death, a bench was dedicated in her memory by Mommie & Me mothers and a plaque by Forrest General Hospital. The plaque, located next to the Spirit of Women Conference Room where Madalene held her classes, reads,
In Memory of Madalene Daniell…Who faithfully served as a friend, mentor and caretaker of Women & Children and whose legacy will be remembered by many generations to come. 1978-2021 Fitness for Two Classes.
Former “Fitness for Two” mothers joined hands and hearts to make the engraved bench possible. On Wednesday, many of them were in attendance, some with small children, while others, from years’ gone past, with daughters and grandchildren. They were there to pay tribute to Madalene who was a gift to many and gave way beyond what she even realized.
Mary Shows, one of those mothers, thanked those whose “heartfelt contributions and input helped make this bench a reality. Words cannot describe what Mrs. Madalene meant to so many of us. During the uncertain times of pregnancy, life with a newborn and life with a toddler, she offered so much more than just an exercise or Mommie & Me class. She encouraged us, she cried and laughed with us, and she prayed with us and for us and took joy in watching us navigate through motherhood. She wanted each of us to succeed in our different walks of motherhood, whatever that may look like. The impact she made on moms-to-be, new moms, and our precious children, will live on forever. I hope that this bench will honor her memory in some small way and remind all of us of the legacy she left behind.”
Millie Swan, Forrest General vice president, had the pleasure to work with Madalene for a number of years. “I thought it was very fitting that today we kicked off our “On Wednesdays We Wear Pink” series honoring women and breast cancer awareness, because Madalene was all about honoring women, their successes and their struggles,” Swan said.
“Madalene knew that women needed each other, and she was passionate about providing support to women and their families. She saw a need for addressing not just illness, but wellness and healthy well-being.
On Madalene’s 40-year anniversary with Spirit of Women, she was quoted as saying, “While teaching one day, the still small voice that can only come from the Lord, said, ‘What do women do when they don’t know what to do’?” Swan went on to say that Madalene knew from having a brand new baby herself that there was a need to give women ideas on how they could weather the seasons of motherhood; it’s challenging. And the rest is history. For 44 years she touched the lives of so many women and children.”
Swan spoke about how in the 1970s exercise classes such as the ones Madalene introduced were groundbreaking concepts and “to this day, women who have moved from Hattiesburg state they have never seen another program similar to Madalene’s vision…what a legacy.”
“Madalene was a great supporter of our Spirit of Women program and she quickly saw the connection between her vision and our efforts,” said Swan. “Allowing these moms and their children to create bonds that might never have been was something she spoke of quite often. She was so proud of the diverse backgrounds of people involved in her classes, not only varying from cultural and socio-economic backgrounds but also with the different roles of families – fathers, grandparents, siblings and other family members who participated in Mommie and Me.”
Abbie Gunn is one of those Madalene Moms and was in attendance with her three-year-old daughter, Sophie Claire.
“I was a young mother and was new to the Hattiesburg area,” said Gunn. “I met Madalene through Pregnancy Exercise classes, and she really encouraged us to talk to other moms and create a support group. I’ve made some of the best friends of my entire life. There is a group of 10 of us who get together often, celebrate every holiday and birthday. It’s blessed our lives and our hearts so much.”
“Madalene understood the highs and lows of life,” Swan said referring to a previous interview when Madalene stated, “We do experience joys together, but the network of relationships gives us long-time commitments to walk through life together. We love it when it’s all joy, but we also rejoice that we have each other when it’s tough things that life brings.”
Swan said, “Madalene’s passing has brought those tough times, the tough things she referenced. She loved her family. She loved everyone present here today. She would have been so pleased with all these ‘sweet mommas and their babies.’ There will never be another Madalene, but I am thankful for her gifts and the gifts she left for us all.”
Small children, many that Madalene had such an impact on, had the honor of unveiling the bench as members of Madalene’s family and “Mommas” looked on.
During Saturday’s Homecoming festivities at the University of Southern Mississippi, Madalene will be remembered once again. During the homecoming football game, which is sponsored by Forrest General Hospital, the game ball will be presented to Madalene’s family in honor of all she did for the hospital’s Women & Children’s services.