HATTIESBURG, Miss. – (November 14, 2021) Five years ago, on November 14, 2016, Asbury Hospice House admitted its first patient. Little did they know on that Monday, that their first patient would make such an impact on the lives of so many, both patients and their family members. Since then, more than 2,100 others have taken the same journey with the care and compassion of the Asbury staff. Whether it’s a friendly face, a bouquet of brightly-colored flowers, someone to hold a hand, or a warm cookie every afternoon at 2 p.m., Asbury continues to be “Family Caring for Family.”
Wiley Martin was that first Asbury patient. He was a fighter in every sense of the word. He was so much of a fighter that not only does he have the distinction of being the first patient at Asbury Hospice House, but he was also Asbury’s longest resident. It wasn’t until the spring of 2018 that he passed through Asbury’s door a final time – this time on angel’s wings. It’s something that speaks to his fortitude through the years and his will and fight to push forward, not letting anything get in his way. It had been that way throughout his lifetime.
As Wiley’s dear friend and former University of Mississippi Dean of the School of Journalism, Will Norton Jr., said in a published article, “He’s just someone who never gives up. I was told he wasn’t going to live more than a month or so when they put him in hospice, and he’s been there a year and a half.”
Wiley had battled cerebral palsy all of his life, but made his way around the Ole Miss campus with the aid of metal crutches. He had a tenacity for life and was no quitter. During his lifetime, Wiley was manager of the men’s basketball teams at Sumrall High School, Pearl River Community College, and the University of Mississippi. He also served as manager with the UM football team. His deep, abiding love for Ole Miss is where he may have made the most impact. UM football coaches and players, professors and administrative officials all knew the name Wiley Martin. It was easy to become fast friends with this indomitable force who was named an honorary member of the Ole Miss M-Club in 2017. Wiley’s last wish was to see the newly-constructed Pavilion on the Ole Miss campus where the Rebels play basketball. Because of Wiley’s deteriorating condition, in February of 2018, friends and family moved heaven and earth to make this last wish a reality.
Wiley was 61 years old when he passed away just two short months later in April of 2018. He had been diagnosed with prostate cancer in 2016. The disease spread to his bones at which time he was admitted to Asbury where one would normally stay a relatively short amount of time. But as he lived the rest of his life, Wiley never gave up and fought on. Asbury became his new home. And with his new home came new friends and opportunities. He used his laptop to research diets that would hopefully slow down the progression of his disease. Asbury Food Services Supervisor, Kim Barnett, faithfully prepared these recipes, including baked fish and a carrot and apple juice smoothie which Wiley requested on a daily basis and sometimes 4 or 5 times a day. He also wasn’t afraid to let the cooks or Kim know when his meals were OK or when they were off.
Forrest General Homecare/Hospice Chaplain and Bereavement Coordinator, Bro. Ken Roberts, visited with Wiley five days a week and remembers him as “large and in charge” from the moment he arrived on the property. “He was one of the biggest blessings of my time here,” Roberts said.
Often wondering how someone with Wiley’s physical handicap could accomplish so much in his life, Bro. Ken asked him one day how he did so much with the disabilities and difficulties he faced. “He told me he attributed this to his mother,” Roberts remembers. “She instilled in him the will not to let his disabilities define him and keep him from reaching his goals. She provided the motivation to help him reach for the stars. And he did.”
Wiley was described as an inspiration, spiritual, funny, intellectual, entertaining, a character, and Asbury’s very own detective, as he watched everyone who came and went. His love and knowledge for sports was vast, and some say he understood the game of basketball better than the majority of most college coaches.
Unfortunately, many of the friends Wiley made at Asbury didn’t stay long. But when he got down or depressed, the Asbury staff raised him back up again. They cared for him like a son, a grandson, a brother or nephew. The staff became his new extended family. He was treated with the utmost respect, care and dignity, as are all Asbury patients and their families. There is no greater angel than Wiley Martin looking down on Asbury Hospice House, where family cares for family.
For more information about Asbury Hospice House, visit www.forresthealth/hospice.