AMOREM Patient Finds Housing After Living Nearly a Decade in a Camper

BOONE, NC (March 13, 2023) — Willard Cordell, an AMOREM hospice patient, lived in a camper for nearly a decade before several High-Country organizations, including AMOREM, helped him find comfortable housing.

AMOREM first met Cordell when his wife was admitted to hospice services through the organization. AMOREM’s clinical team would travel to the family’s camper to provide comfort care to Cordell’s wife. Concerned about the Cordell’s living situation, AMOREM staff wanted to find conventional housing for the Cordell family, but Willard and his wife were unwilling to move without their dog Scruffy.

Due to Cordell’s wife’s progressing illness, it was necessary for her to be transported to the AMOREM patient care unit in Hudson to receive inpatient hospice care.

“AMOREM helped my wife so much,” says Cordell, “She was able to do whatever she wanted to do, and I was able to go down and spend time with her in the patient care unit.”

Years ago, Cordell and his wife built a home near Beech Mountain with an A-frame and a large porch to enjoy the mountain views. Unfortunately, the house underwent significant damage throughout the years deeming it unlivable.

The Cordell’s purchased an RV to park and live in near the property that the home is on. Tragically, the RV caught fire due to an electrical issue just days after the couple purchased it, leaving the Cordell’s and their dog homeless.

Cordell, who never seems to be defeated, was assisted by Edie Tugman in purchasing a smaller camper that the Cordell family could move into.

“We did whatever it took,” says Cordell, “and we were happy to do so.”

When Cordell, his wife and Scruffy shared the camper, they would lay a garden hose in the sunlight to warm water for showering, they withstood freezing nights and days without power and climbed into a loft-style bed each night to sleep.

“My wife and I lived a rough life but, we didn’t mind it one bit,” Cordell said. We enjoyed it, really. We knew that we wanted to build a home to leave behind for our son so, that’s exactly what we did.”

After nearly a decade of living in the camper, Cordell was diagnosed with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and was admitted to hospice services through AMOREM.

Scruffy and Cordell’s wife died within days of each other which left Cordell alone in the camper, anxiously awaiting the cold winter weather.

With a coordinated effort between Elise Kellogg, AMOREM medical social worker, Graham Doege, service coordinator at the Boone Hospitality House, Edie Tugman, mayor pro tem of Boone and Myra Dobbins with Watauga Village Apartments, Cordell was placed on a 200-person waitlist for an apartment in the High Country.

“Willard’s story broke everyone’s heart,” says Doege, “Once the news of Willard spread, the entire community came together and went above and beyond to help him.”

With the dedication and persistence of Doege, Kellogg, Tugman and Dobbins, Cordell was able to climb his way to the top of the 200-person waitlist. He was placed in an apartment in the High Country that, unlike the camper, boasted warm running water, a full-sized bed, a full kitchen and a living area with enough space for Cordell and Kellogg to play guitar together while others danced and tapped their feet to the rhythm of Johnny Cash. The home was fully furnished for Cordell with items thrifted and purchased by generous individuals.

As Kellogg fishes around for her guitar pick, Cordell expresses immense gratitude for Dobbins, Tugman, Doege, Kellogg and every other individual who has shown a willingness to help him during his journey.

“Look around this place!”, Cordell says as he extends an arm outward, “What more could anyone possibly ask for? This place has everything that I could have ever asked for and so much more.”

With a wink in his eye, Cordell leans to Kellogg and says, “Well, let’s play us some music!”

To hear Cordell and Willard play Johnny Cash songs in his new apartment, visit the AMOREM YouTube Channel.

To learn more about AMOREM services, visit or call 828.754.0101.

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