Employers stand by terminally ill woman's side

Annie Blanks | 315-4450 | @DestinLogAnnie | ablanks@thedestinlog.com
Sandra Ransone, center, is pictured with her husband Tomm Meilbach and their daughter Darcee Meilbach. Ransone passed away from pancreatic cancer Sept. 22, but her employer and Meilbach's employer went "above and beyond" the call of duty to help the family throughout Ransone's illness. SPECIAL TO THE LOG

Everything happened relatively quickly after doctors discovered Sandra Ransone’s tumor last November.

The Fort Walton Beach wife and mother had been sick for a long time when a nurse practitioner at White-Wilson eventually discovered her tumor, and she was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer within days.

After several months of chemo, radiation and chemo again, Ransone lost her battle to cancer on Sept. 22, 2016. She was 55 years old.

Darcee Meilbach, Ransone’s daughter, said despite the past year being “a hell of a year” for her family, there is still a silver lining to her grief.

“My father’s boss and my mother’s boss, both of them just stepped up big time and did things that were far above and beyond the call of duty for an employer,” Meilbach said.

Her father and Ransone’s husband, Tomm Meilbach, was let go of his job a week before doctors found his wife’s tumor. He got a job at National Golf Outlet in Destin that same week, and 90 minutes into his first day working there, his wife called him with the news.

Despite only having known him for a few days when Ransone was diagnosed, Jimbo Franklin, his boss and at National Golf Outlet in Destin, was more than supportive. After it was clear that Meilbach would have to miss quite a bit of work to tend to his wife during her illness, Franklin put him on salary instead of paying him only for the hours he could work. 

What’s more, Franklin cashed in all of his airline miles to put Darcee Meilbach on a next-day flight from her current home in France to Fort Walton Beach when her mother’s condition began rapidly deteriorating. The ticket cost $3,500.

Ransone had been working for the Anchors Smith Grimsley law firm in Fort Walton Beach for more than 10 years when she was diagnosed. Her boss, attorney Jeff McInnis, offered to keep paying Ransone even when she could no longer work, but she declined and took Social Security disability instead.

McInnis continued to pay for Ransone’s health insurance up until the very end.

Tomm Meilbach said being able to focus solely on his wife throughout her illness was a gift beyond comprehension.

“It was priceless,” he said between fighting back tears. “For me, to have that time with my wife and not worry about the finances and to have the backing of my boss and her boss, financially, it was… I can’t describe in words what it meant to me and Sandra.

“Overwhelming, incomprehensible,” he said.

Darcee Meilbach said the response from her parents’ employers has been astounding, and she hopes other businesses can take a lesson from their kindness.

“It’s just one of those moments where even though it was a very difficult year and a very sad outcome for our family, I look at these guys and I say to myself, ‘It would have been a lot worse (if they weren’t there),' ” she said. “It’s not every day that businesses step up like this, but they do, clearly, and it’s important and it matters a lot when they do.”