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Widow's gift to Haywood County hospice facility is her way of paying it forward

Wanda Lurvey (left) of Maggie Valley gave recliners to care providers at The Homestead in Clyde. (Photo credit: WLOS Staff)

News 13's Person of the Week honored her late husband by paying it forward in her time of grief. Wanda Lurvey of Maggie Valley gave care providers recliners to offer families a measure of comfort when they desperately need it.

"Thank you for taking such good care of John," said Lurvey, speaking to Nursing Assistant Theresa Nelson at The Homestead in Clyde.

"You're welcome, it's my honor," said Nelson, who nominated Lurvey for Person of the Week.

The time of our life is fleeting. At The Homestead, a lifetime measured in years comes down to a matter of minutes. Last summer, Wanda's husband John was in hospice care just seven months after being diagnosed with liver cancer.

"I'm so grateful that I did bring him here," Lurvey said. "Because he spent his last 36 hours in this place with such care that just blew me away."

They were married 41 years. Nelson was in the room when John passed away.

"Her husband was amazing, she touched me so much at the last minutes of his life thanking him for choosing her," Nelson recalled, saying everyone was in tears.

What seems like the end of John's story is just the beginning.

"I could talk to you all day about my husband," Lurvey said. "He was a dedicated law enforcement person. He believed in giving back to the community."

His legacy gave Lurvey a clear mission. While her husband was in care, she asked Nelson what the facility needed.

"You know, Wanda did an amazing thing to raise $10,000 in such a short period of time," Nelson said.

Lurvey believes John knew her intentions just before he died.

"When he was in a coma, I talked to him about a plan with the recliners, and I said, 'I really believe this is something you would jump on,' and so I knew that I had to make it come true," she said.

She called on the community to pitch in for chairs to provide comfort at a time of crisis for so many families. The $9,600 was enough to buy 14 recliners all throughout the building.

Lurvey said Massie Furniture of Waynesville gave her a big discount to buy the recliners. She also has $3,000 set aside as an emergency fund to help nurses at The Homestead.

A plate on the recliners reads "In loving memory of Walking Stick Eagle," a Cherokee name given to John by friends.

"It's so important that they had comfortable chairs for at least two people," Lurvey said. "Because you don't want to leave, because you don't know when they're going to be gone."

As time slips by, something as simple as furniture means a lot.

"It's very touching when you see families say how comfortable they are," Nelson said. "We had a man come all the way from Chicago to spend the last three days of his dad's life with him and he pulled it up beside the bed and held his hand."

No one knows that feeling more than Lurvey, who thanked John for the memories so fresh in her mind.

"You know, when you have to let somebody go," she said of the last moments with John. "He had to go home. He had to go home, and I just wanted him to know how much our life together meant."

Instead of dwelling on time lost with her husband, she reached out to the care providers who truly cared.

"That's what gave me the idea that you have to pay back. We took something, we have to give back," she said .

Turning back the clock is painful, but Lurvey found solace in providing something for those with little time to spare.

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