"It always seems impossible until it's done."
Nelson Mandela

Every successful venture begins with a vision which is shared by or supported by the faithful trust of a larger group. Caldwell Hospice and Palliative Care has been blessed over its history with visionaries, vision, and the faithful trust of that larger group.


Catherine (Respess) Barnes introduced the “hospice” concept to Rev. Parker Williamson, First Presbyterian Church of Lenoir senior minister, and to her church's family night congregation, attended by Dr. Jane Carswell. Later Carswell gathered people at her house, including Respess Barnes, Williamson, and others to discuss the concept.


Steering committee: Rev. Parker Williamson, Hannah Williamson, Nell Greene, Bobbie Triplett, Sarah Bolick, John A. Forlines, Jr., Wallace Respess, Catherine “Tyu Tyu” (Respess) Barnes, Fred Soule, Dr. Newell Shull, Melvin Martin, J. Harper Beall III, and Ann[e] Lutz. They spoke with area doctors concerning treatments for terminally ill patients; contacted Judith Lund/Hospice of NC, who came to speak with them; they formed a non-profit corporation. Julia Forlines, terminally ill, offered to serve as “public speaker” to 40 clubs and organizations.


Hospice began in a donated Sunday School room, with money donated by First Presbyterian Church of Lenoir, Episcopal Diocese of NC, and Lenoir Service League; one full-time employee, Gibbie Harris, RN; with volunteer nurses: Catherine (Respess) Barnes, Avis Corpening, and Bobbie Triplett. Dr. Robert Belk joined as board member and volunteer medical director, July 1982; he referred the first patient to Caldwell Hospice. Roberta Blinson was the first volunteer and remains one today.



Gibbie Harris, executive director, noted that, by the end of the first year, Caldwell Hospice had served 37 families, with volunteers providing much of patient care and office work.


Caldwell County Hospice received initial state licensure in October. First benefit luncheon, with Mike Krzyzewski, Duke University men's basketball coach, guest speaker. Miss Margaret Harper died on November 8th and bequeathed her home, Kirkwood, to First Presbyterian Church, to be used for Caldwell Hospice as long as it was needed. The church later agreed to lease the house to Caldwell Hospice for 99 years at $1.00 per year. 



Caldwell County Hospice became Medicare certified, with an August survey. The board of directors proposed patient-care-unit plans. “Harper House” renovation was approved.


Caldwell Hospice moved its offices to Kirkwood; patient care unit drawings were presented at December board meeting.


Fifth anniversary, with the Open House ceremony in October.


NC's first free-standing patient care unit was dedicated on January 15.


Cathy (Simmons) Swanson was appointed executive director, after serving as a staff medical social worker since August 1988.


Tenth anniversary open house, June 28. Caldwell Hospice had served nearly 800 patients and families in first decade. The patient care unit was dedicated as the William E. Stevens, Jr., PCU.


The Caldwell Hospice Foundation was established, according to John A. Forlines, Jr.: “to build an endowment fund which will enable Hospice to continue to provide personal, caring service to our terminally-ill friends and neighbors and their families in the future, regardless of changes that may be forthcoming in the health care industry.”


First accreditation by the Accreditation Commission for Home Care (ACHC).


Open house for new 4,000 square-foot addition, including chapel, office space, Wilson Meeting Room, renovation of main house, and refurbishing of the six-bed patient care unit. Catawba Valley Neighbors article announced the John A. Forlines Jr. Distinguished Service Award.


“Ashewood,” JW Greer home at 1002 Ashe Avenue, was purchased and renovated, to house Ashewood Grief and Counseling Services of Caldwell Hospice and Palliative Care.


Hospice collaborated with Caldwell Memorial Hospital to create the Caldwell Partnership for Palliative Care. On July 1st, Caldwell Hospice and Palliative Care, Inc., became our name—to enhance and strengthen our expertise with issues surrounding quality of life, end of life, and grief and counseling assistance. 


Caldwell Hospice and Palliative Care celebrated its 25th anniversary of serving patients, their families, and the community. 

In October, Caldwell Hospice hired a second full-time physician, Dr. Thomas Ray. 



After completing the Certificate of Need process and gaining approval from the North Carolina Division of Health Services Regulation, Caldwell Hospice began construction in November on a 15,135 square-foot, 12-bed patient care unit to provide both acute and residential hospice care, and the 11,845 square-foot professional center to house key direct-care clinical and patient care support staff and to provide community education space.

Just a short time later, Lenoir's News-Topic reported on a special presentation by the family of the late Thomas "Jack" Robbins; Caldwell Hospice was among six local organizations plus one nationally known hospital to receive a combined $14.8 million from the estate. To finance its construction project, Caldwell Hospice initiated "A Bold Vision, Honoring Faithful Service: The Capital Campaign for Caldwell Hospice and Palliative Care."


Dr. Thomas Ray earned certification in Hospice and Palliative Medicine (HPM). Caldwell Hospice celebrated the 20th anniversary of its six-bed patient care unit at Kirkwood, the state’s first free-standing patient care unit.


On April 26, Caldwell Hospice and Palliative Care’s Board of Directors named its 64-acre site in Hudson the Jack and Shirley Robbins Center. The patient care unit was named for long-time board treasurer John A. Forlines, Jr., and the professional center was named by Bob and Michele McCreary, long-time Caldwell Hospice supporters and owners of McCreary Modern, in honor of their family, the McCreary Family Professional Center.

The Stevens PCU re-opened on November 29, 2010, to patients. With a combined total of 18 beds at its two locations, Caldwell Hospice offers nine residential beds (seven at the Forlines Patient Care Unit and two at the Stevens Patient Care Unit) and nine acute (five at the Forlines PCU and four at the Stevens PCU).



Caldwell Hospice’s staff and Board of Directors honored Dr. Robert Belk with two retirement events in early December. The first was an evening reception to which the community was invited to join staff, Board members, and Dr. Belk’s family in showering him with well-deserved accolades for the compassionate end-of-life care he gave. The second was a luncheon attended by staff, Board members, and Dr. Belk’s family.

Dr. Thomas Ray was named Medical Director; Dr. Dennice Herman was named Associate Medical Director.


Caldwell Hospice commemorated its 30th anniversary in 2012. The anniversary year’s theme was “Building on 30 Years of Excellence.” CEO Cathy Swanson said, “We are proud to have served this community for 30 years. But we’re also exploring innovative ways of providing hospice and palliative care in the future. We will not give any less than the highest level of end-of-life care that our community has come to expect.”

Caldwell Hospice dedicated its Fall 2012 CareLines newsletter to Parker Williamson—who retired in 2012 after serving as Caldwell Hospice’s first and only Board of Directors President—recognizing his leadership, from defining hospice care to the community in the early 1980s, through construction of North Carolina’s first hospice inpatient unit, through hard economic times, and through opening the facility at the Robbins Center. The Board of Directors named Williamson its Chair emeritus, and Dr. Robert Belk was named Medical Director emeritus.

Parker Williamson received the John A. Forlines, Jr., Distinguished Service Award. Caldwell Hospice created the award in 2001 to recognize exceptional leadership, and Forlines was its first recipient; Williamson became the second person to be so honored.


Caldwell Hospice and Appalachian Regional Healthcare System developed a clinical collaboration to provide outstanding hospice and palliative care services to the residents of Ashe, Avery, and Watauga counties. "We have a very similar vision and mission and see many opportunities to work together in the care of our patients," said Chuck Mantooth, President, Watauga Medical Center.

Caldwell Hospice was chosen to partner with AccessCare to provide palliative care services to participants in a palliative care demonstration project for qualifying residents of Ashe, Avery, and Watauga counties.


Stevens Patient Care Unit at Kirkwood in Lenoir celebrates 25th anniversary. It was the first free-standing hospice inpatient unit in North Carolina.

In order to meet an existing need for quality end-of-life care, Caldwell Hospice expanded its full range of services to Western North Carolina's High Country in late January. To ensure the same quality care in the High Country, a complete interdisciplinary team—physician, nurses, medical social workers, certified nursing assistants, chaplains, and volunteers—is based at a work station in Boone, NC. "We are eager to offer our approach to delivering end-of-life care to the residents in the High Country. Our staff brings years of professional experience and, more importantly, a sincere, caring attitude to the patients and families we serve. We are enthusiastic about becoming a part of the end-of-life support system for our High Country neighbors," said Marc Carpenter, Caldwell Hospice Board Chair.


The transition to providing service in the High Country was fully implemented this year. The expanded service area includes Ashe, Avery and Watauga counties.

The NC Department of Health and Human Resources Division of Health Service Regulation granted Caldwell Hospice’s request to convert three residential beds to general inpatient at the Forlines Patient Care Unit.


Caldwell Hospice purchased property at Carriage Square in Boone for the High Country work station.

Caldwell Hospice becomes a partner in We Honor Veterans, a national hospice awareness campaign conducted by the National Hospice and Palliative Care Organization in collaboration with the Department of Veterans Affairs.

Caldwell Hospice and Palliative Care marks a milestone in its service to the community, having served more than 10,000 patients. 


Caldwell Hospice commemorated its 35th anniversary in 2017. The anniversary year’s theme was “Celebrating 35 Years of Excellence.” 

Caldwell Hospice earned the Strategic Healthcare Programs (SHP) Best Superior Performer Award. This award is for achieving an overall CAHPS (patient survey) Hospice caregive satisfaction score that ranked in the top 20% of all SHP clients (approximately 850 clients) during the 2016 calendar year.


Caldwell Hospice is one of four founding hospices to form the TELEIOS Collaborative Network (TCN). The essence of what TCN brings to the table for its members is to leverage best practices, achieve economies of scale and collaborate in ways that better prepare each agency to participate in emerging alternative payment models and advance their charitable missions.

Caldwell Hospice Serving the High Country was voted BEST of the BEST HOSPICE in Watauga County via the Watauga Democrat newspaper survey! We are excited to be recognized for the excellent hospice care we have provided to over 500 patients and families over the past four years.

Martha Livingston, CSW, retired as Director of Support Services after 28+ years with Caldwell Hospice. She joined our team in October 1989 as a part-time medical social worker, accepting the Director of Support Services position in 1994. When asked why she chose to stay for almost three decades, Martha replied, with tears in her eyes, "Because I believe in our mission. We provide care by the bedside like no one else can."


After 28 years, Grace Bradford, BSN, CHPN, retired as Director of Nursing. There is no doubt—Grace provided exceptional leadership throughout the years and helped grow and shape Caldwell Hospice and Palliative Care into the exceptional organization it is today.

Kathy Tunstill, BSN, joins our team as Director of Nursing.

Julia Sherrill, MD, joins our team as physician.

Caldwell Hospice and Palliative Care was nominated in multiple BEST of CALDWELL survey categories and voted 1st place for BEST NON-PROFIT, and 1st, 2nd, and 3rd places for BEST NURSE with Rita Whisnant, BSN, RN, Juanita Carlton, CNAII, and Kristy Brown, RN. Caldwell Hospice and Palliative Care was also voted FINEST HOSPICE/PALLIATIVE CARE organization in the BEST of CATAWBA VALLEY survey.