While in treatment for Stage IV colon cancer, Angela Hobbs, a successful Johnson City beautician and award-winning salon owner, was taken aback by the number of people who have cancer, and the difficulties they deal with.
When Angela learned her condition was terminal, she told her mother she wished she could do something for others as comforting as the special kindness that was extended to her during her illness.
Angela died last spring at age 38, and her parents, Marcie and Tim Littleton, decided they would fulfill her wish in memory of her caring spirit. Just a few days before Christmas, they opened Angela's former home, newly renovated and refurnished, as a free guest house for cancer patients and families from outside the area who travel here for their treatment.
‘Cottage of Hope’
"When she died, we thought we could give this house for them to stay in and this yard for their children to play in," her mother said. "She would have loved it.
"She was a very loving lady and a beautician ... She was more than a beautician. She was an artist. She loved doing hair. And her customers knew. She listened to all their troubles and she cared about them. She cared about everybody. So we did this in her memory."
Angela's concern for her customers caused her customers to care about her too. And when she became ill, it was the kindness of one of her customers, a nurse who was also a friend, that inspired Angela's wish to help other patients — and, ultimately, the gift her family has given them.
While Angela was in treatment, her mother explained, she spent some time as an outpatient at Vanderbilt University Medical Center, where a friend and customer gave her the use of her time-share condo in Nashville, making those difficult weeks more comfortable for Angela and her husband, Ronnie.
After Angela died, Ronnie moved closer to his mother so that she could help him with his and Angela's children, 11-year-old Skylar and 6-year-old Kendal. Marcie and Tim then went to work to repay the favor, renovating and refurnishing the little farmhouse that had been a home not only to Angela, but several generations of the Littleton family.
A hotel is not a home
Angela's Cottage of Hope, the five-bedroom guest house that resulted from their work, is filled with comforting touches. On its front porch, there's a new swing and several low-slung rockers. In the front room, photos on the mantel tell Angela's life story in pictures: her wedding photo, a casual portrait of her with her husband and children, and snapshots of Angela and her mother. One photo shows Angela and her best friend and business partner, Brandy Miller, celebrating the announcement of their shop's distinction as Best Salon in the annual Johnson City Press Reader's Choice Awards.
Just off the living room, there's a master bedroom with an antique poster bed and a giant bath that Angela designed with double sinks, large mirrors and plenty of floor space for doing hair. From there, the house circles round to a sunny kitchen and another first-floor bedroom and a nursery with single bed, a cradle and huge closet full of toys for any child who may need them. Upstairs, there's a loft with a small den and yet another bedroom, also designed by Angela, with double beds and old chenille spreads that match the many antique pieces that furnish the old house.
"We hope it's nice enough for people to stay in," Marcie said. "It's not fancy but it's clean. We just want people to get better."
Vanessa Bramble, director of oncology services for Mountain States Health Alliance, believes the house will be of great help to cancer patients from outside the area who come to Johnson City for outpatient care at the Regional Cancer Center and for patients with families who travel here to be near them during their hospitalization.
"We refer them for lodging in hotels, but hotels are not the home this house is," Bramble said. "There are people who forego treatment because they want to be at home with their families. This will allow them to be close to their families and close to their doctors. There is a healing environment here. It's very important to cancer patients. And it will give hope to others."