Stephanie Cottrell and Darlene Moore share an everlasting bond as co-workers, friends and as “Nana” and “Meemaw.”

The two first more than 20 years ago when Moore interviewed for a position with McDonald’s owner/operator Tom Burrell and Cottrell, co-director of operations.

Moore, who now is in human resources, was hired in March 1997 as a birthday party coordinator, working from home.

Soon after, Cottrell’s husband at the time was in a motorcycle wreck. Cottrell said it shattered his knee and required major surgery. She said he needed a lot of home care.

To help, Moore offered to give Cottrell’s son a ride from school every day. After all, both of their children attended Elizabethtown High School and her schedule was flexible.

That arrangement allowed Cottrell’s son and Moore’s daughter to meet and fall in love. The two were married in 2007 and started a family of their own, giving Cottrell and Moore the honor of being grandmas to three grandchildren. The three are Moore’s only grandchildren; Cottrell has 10.

“Grandchildren fill a space in a heart you never knew was empty,” Cottrell said, sharing a quote.

But their bond doesn’t only come from the blending of their families. Cottrell’s first husband and Moore’s mother both died in 2007. In 2011 Moore lost her husband.

“Because of some of the experiences we went through. ... It has truly bonded us,” Moore said. “But we also share critical things about our kids. ... We were brought together through McDonald’s then our children just took that introduction and enhanced it. The grandkids blessed it. But we have nurtured it. We have kept it.”

Cottrell started working at a Burrell’s McDonald’s restaurant 37 years ago. She began as a crew member and worked her way up. Moore has worked for the Burrell’s organization for 21 years. Burrell owns and operates 17 restaurants with more than 1,200 employees around the area.

Cottrell and Moore both described Mc­Donald’s as an individual-owned business. Cottrell said the generosity of Burrell’s heart and what he gives back is amazing. That includes allowing employees flexible schedules to put their families first.

“What Tom (Burrell) has done for me, I could never repay him for the flexibility and the journey he has allowed me to take in my life,” Moore said.

Before starting her career at McDonald’s, Cottrell had begun to pursue a nursing degree. She wanted to help people – something she found she was able to do through the restaurant.

“We are counselors, we’re nurses, financial advisors, patient advocates,” Cottrell said.

Several titles that go along, they said, with one of their most important – “Nana” and “Meemaw.”

Mary Alford can be reached at 270-505-1741 or

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