The Hammond’s story begins with loss, but ends with love.
When Rick and Mary Ann Hammond met a few years ago during a real estate exchange, they didn’t know how many similarities their futures would hold; they both cared for spouses with cancer, had stepchildren but no biological children, and shared the same zest for living out their golden years.
Mary Ann, formerly Mary Ann Whitley, lived on acreage in Newberry. After her husband Jim passed away, she decided that she needed to downsize and start fresh, purchasing a home that was listed by realtor Rick Hammond. They met at the closing table. Rick’s wife D’Anne was battling cancer at the time and passed away a month later. Both of their spouses were cared for by Haven Hospice.
“After my wife passed, I realized I had a Peru trip planned for June 2019, so I started walking a lot to get in shape,” said Rick. “I saw Mary Ann walking and talked to her, never with anything in mind other than just friendship. She invited me to lunch after Peru—just one lunch. Then it was another lunch, then another lunch, then COVID-19 began so we had a picnic at Lake Alice. We realized we had a lot in common. Mary Ann was a widow and I was a widower. We had both been caretakers for spouses with cancer and had been through the rollercoaster of supporting someone going through treatment. We had a lot of similarities.”
Rick and Mary Ann, who were married in March 2021, requested donations to Haven Hospice or honeymoon funds in lieu of wedding gifts.
“When we decided to get married, we were combining two households. I sold my house and most of my things,” said Rick. “People kept saying, ‘We want to give you a gift.’ But there was nothing we needed. We decided, while we didn’t need gifts, we would do 1) a honeymoon fund and 2) a hospice fund. Both of our deceased spouses had been at Haven when they passed; it’s a great place and had special meaning to both of us.”
Rick’s former wife, D’Anne, decided on her 75th birthday that she was done with chemotherapy. Her cancer treatment was aggressive and she was ready for whatever happened. Rick didn’t know what to do and contacted Haven, where staff told them they could provide 24/7 symptom management for her at the E.T. York Hospice Care Center in Gainesville.
“You don’t realize how important hospice is until you have to use it. It is something that takes the stress out of the situation for you. [Losing a loved one] takes a lot of planning but hospice frees you up so you can do that. The staff was great. That’s all you want, is for someone to take care of your loved one and make sure they don’t suffer.”
Mary Ann’s former husband, Jim, similarly received care from Haven. When Jim’s cancer had spread and chemotherapy was no longer working, Haven provided the necessary equipment to make him comfortable at home with routine care and visits. After his last hospitalization and decline, Jim received care at the Tri-Counties Hospice Care Center in Chiefland.
Mary Ann said it’s important for people to know that hospice care is not simply a loved one entering a facility in their last days, but a service that provides equipment and healthcare professionals at home. “The staff was wonderful to work with, not only for Jim, but for myself and our family,” said Mary Ann. “Haven Hospice does a wonderful job in helping with all a patient needs during a very difficult time.”
Rick said both he and Mary Ann consider it a blessing that their spouses “are no longer in pain, without cancer and free of all the things in life” and they are both grateful for Haven’s care of their loved ones.
The couple donated funds to Haven in memory of their deceased spouses. When it comes to their new marriage, Rick said he and Mary Ann will be spending whatever time they have left having a great time together and doing the things they love.
If you wish to donate to Haven, please visit https://beyourhaven.org/donate.