She “had a cultured geniality which made her company most delightful” noted Frank Nifong when he met Lavinia Lenoir. In his autobiography he would later tell of their meeting in St. Louis and how he hoped to see her despite being a “poor young doctor without being established and not knowing if I ever would succeed.”
Lavinia must have felt the same for on February 7, 1900, they were married in St. Louis, Missouri. Five years later they made a leap of faith to move to Columbia, Missouri, to care for Lavinia’s parents, Slater and Margaret Bradford Lenoir, and their 600-acre farm. Frank’s good reputation preceded him and he received a call from the University of Missouri’s Dean of Medicine inviting him to join the medical school’s faculty.
They were partners together in all things, working to improve the health needs of the people of Missouri by advocating medical education, county hospitals, and the founding of Boone Hospital where Frank served as its first Chief of Staff. They loved working together on causes close to their hearts as they loved the city of Columbia.
Later in life they pondered how their legacy could benefit the lives of others. From the experience of caring for Lavinia’s parents, they conceived the idea of a retirement home for older adults. The couple donated 170 acres of their farm and $100,000 for the construction of the Lenoir Memorial Home, which opened in September 1949.
From their front porch they could see residents pass through the stately brick building’s front door. One resident wrote a poem about that door, behind which “lies peace of mind and soul,” a legacy gift that grew out of Frank and Lavinia’s devotion to each other, to Slater and Margaret, and to their community.