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Donation honors woman’s life

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SMITHFIELD — During her five-year battle with breast cancer, it wasn’t the many treatments, doctor visits or harsh side effects of medication that Kay Wallace of Clayton talked about with family and friends. She chose instead to share stories of the patients she met along the way — many of them lonely, financially strapped and sicker than she.

If anything, Wallace lived as though she was well. Going to weddings and football games with her husband, Arnold, and baking cakes for those in the community who had lost loved ones. Though sick, she never let the disease interrupt her ministry of sending hand-written notes to those who were facing illness, surgery or a tough diagnosis, friends and family members said.

To honor her memory, her brother and sister-in-law, Durwood and Vickie Stephenson of Smithfield, recently established in her name a $50,000 endowment with the Johnston Health Foundation. The interest earnings will go exclusively to the Angel Fund to assist patients with expenses related to their cancer care and treatment.

“We have family members who died of cancer because they didn’t have the access or the resources to get the care they needed,” said Durwood Stephenson, owner of Stephenson General Contractors. “We wanted to honor Kay’s memory in a way that reflected her concern and compassion for people, particularly for those battling cancer.”

Wallace died on June 21, 2016. She was 62.

Sol Halliburton, director of the foundation, says the named endowment stands out because it’s the first to be designated toward a specific fund.

“It will be a continuing source of assistance, and can grow over time as others contribute,” she said. “The gift memorializes Mrs. Wallace, and it also reflects Mr. and Mrs. Stephenson’s values and passion for helping those in need.”

Because of the endowment’s size, the foundation named the education room at Johnston Health Hematology & Oncology after Wallace, Halliburton said. Patients use the room to meet for classes, counseling and orientation about their treatment.

In December, the foundation held a reception and a ribbon-cutting to acknowledge the gift and to showcase the education room at the oncology clinic, which is inside Johnston Medical Mall.

Among the 50 or so guests was Wallace’s best friend since eighth grade, Nancy Lambert of Youngsville. She said her brother, Wilkie Nunn, was a recipient of her friend’s kind, encouraging, heartfelt notes. He was diagnosed with cancer about two years after Wallace.

“Kay was a generous person who was always concerned about others,” Lambert said. “What better way to honor her memory than by equipping other cancer patients with the tools and resources to fight their disease?”

In the recent interview, Stephenson said people always remember those who are close to them.

“We want the world to remember them, too,” he added. “Through the endowment, Kay’s name will live on. And while patients may not know her, they will see her name and ask who she was.”