A Woman to KNOW : Kelsey Vickers
The Soulful Tapestry of Denise’s Life: A Journey of Faith, Community, and Compassionate Care

by Myra Stacey

In the heart of St. Clairsville, Ohio, Denise Kaye emerged as a unique flower in a diverse garden. Born into a Jewish family in a predominantly non-Jewish town, her early years were a beautiful contradiction, a microcosm of coexistence. Every trip to the synagogue in Wheeling with her family was not just a drive—it was a pilgrimage that bridged two worlds.

At the incredibly tender age of three, she felt the weight of being different, a revelation brought about during high holiday services. While her family adorned in prayer shawls, the rest of St. Clairsville went about its day, as if time stood still for no one but her. This early realization wasn’t a burden but an illumination. Denise would spend her life bridging gaps, both visible and invisible. 

Her dedication to her faith and community was never in question. Her parents, who had served as presidents of their synagogue, were her moral compass. They volunteered their time and hearts, which Denise and her sister deeply internalized. The family’s life was intertwined with the broader Jewish culture, their connections spreading from their hometown to Pittsburgh and beyond. Even their summer vacations had a tint of spiritual discovery, often spent at a Jewish summer camp in the Pocono Mountains.

Denise’s bat mitzvah was a testament to how one family could bring together an entire community. Nearly 300 people—neighbors, friends, and strangers—celebrated this rite of passage. And there, strumming the guitar, was Brad Paisley, a high school senior on the brink of fame but, at that moment, just another member of Denise’s expansive community.

Denise’s professional life, like her personal one, is a palette of diverse experiences. She taught school for some time, then found her way into corporate America, and eventually landed in a field closest to her heart: home care. Here, in the corridors of Connections in Home Care and Communities, she found her calling. In this space, she and her husband, Eric, became architects of compassion, designing a realm where aging was not an ending but a phase to be lived with dignity.

Denise & Eric summer of 1998 when we met at Summer Camp in Prescott, AZ

What sets Denise apart is her holistic understanding of care. She believes not just in providing services but in nurturing souls. This philosophy extends to her team. She emphasizes self-care, not just as a practice but as a moral obligation. Denise knows the weight of the soul, the hidden stress that caregivers carry home tucked away beneath their scrubs.

Denise’s life is a series of interwoven narratives that go beyond her immediate family and career. There’s the poignant story of her mother-in-law, Julia, and her best friend’s father, Tommy, and how their lives crossed paths in the most unexpected ways. When Julia was a young girl, she found herself a stranger in a new land—America. Her parents had migrated from Greece, and their home was like a slice of the old country. The language, the customs, and the scents were all reminiscent of their Greek heritage. One day, young Julia was faced with the task of writing a paper in English, a daunting undertaking given her limited familiarity with the language.

Enter Tommy, a compassionate young boy in her school who noticed her struggling. “I’ll help you, I’ll help you write this paper,” he generously offered. Filled with relief and gratitude, Julia accepted his help, and thus a simple school assignment became a lifelong memory.

Fast forward several decades to 2006 in Prescott, Arizona. Denise was running a summer camp with her colleague and friend, Jodi Woodnic. Denise’s husband Eric and his parents, including Julia, decided to visit them during the camp. Coincidentally, Jody’s parents also chose that moment to visit their daughter.

The atmosphere was festive and filled with familial warmth—until Julia stepped into the house. She suddenly froze as her eyes met those of Jody’s father. “Tommy,” she uttered, almost in disbelief.

Tommy looked at her, equally stunned, and said, “Julia.”

It was then revealed, amid collective astonishment, that Tommy—the father of Denise’s colleague and friend Jody—was the very same Tommy who had helped a young Greek immigrant girl write her first English paper all those years ago.

These moments aren’t mere coincidences; they are spiritual milestones, markers of a life lived deeply connected to the world’s mysterious tapestry.

Denise with Martha (caregiver) & her client

Denise’s work is a ripple in a larger pond, one that she hopes will grow into a wave of systemic change. She is invested in educating employees about the gray areas of aging, those spaces in life that often go unaddressed in corporate settings. She works tirelessly to fill this void, to make others see aging not as a burden but as a phase deserving of respect, attention, and love.

Denise’s presence isn’t limited to her professional domain. She’s a guiding spirit in multiple community boards, an advocate for change, and a voice for those who often go unheard. Her ethos of service transcends her immediate world, reaching out to social issues that need her unique blend of wisdom, kindness, and fierce advocacy.

Denise’s life story isn’t one that can be confined to pages or summed up in mere words. It’s a living tapestry of faith, love, and indomitable spirit. Alongside Eric, they have not only scaled the business but also scaled the heights of human compassion. For Denise, life isn’t a series of events but a continuum of moments, each colored with the hues of kindness, integrity, and an unwavering commitment to make the world a better place—one soul at a time.

With every thread she adds to her tapestry, Denise reminds us all of the endless possibilities that come from a life lived with intention, courage, and an unquenchable thirst for making a meaningful impact.

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