Marty Johnson cares for those in the final stages of their lives. She is a strong community advocate for hospice services, and a staple of her local community of Pecatonica, in Northern Illinois. Following her passion, she bought a Queen Anne Victorian home in 2010 with the ambition to convert it to a five room veterans hospice. What she did not realize was how much it would cost.
“I didn’t realize how expensive it was going to be,” said Johnson, the founder of Hospice Care of America in Rockford. “I don’t know of any other foundations or programs that are in a position to take on a project of this size and scope.”
Veterans hospice project abandoned due to cost
Indeed, the old Victorian home, built in 1900, held many unseen surprises for Johnson. From plumbing and wiring problems to structural needs, such as the addition of an elevator, the project’s scope kept climbing. At an estimated $1.2 million price tag, Johnson threw in the towel.
“Sometimes those houses have surprises for you,” explained Rockford Realtor Vickie Krueger to local newspaper Rockford Register Star. “You open up a wall and you find something you didn’t expect. You always find a secret thing in these houses that tells you something about history.”
A “double-edged sword”
Johnson purchased the home in 2010 for $180,000 and planned to turn it into a place of peace and tranquility, a veterans hospice. She has worked tirelessly for the past five years to see her vision come to fruition. But as with many things, it was simply not meant to be.
“Oh, that beautiful Victorian,” explained previous owner Ed Smith to the Rockford Register Star. “That’s a double-edged sword because that would be a nice facility for to have. It’s genuine. It just exudes peace and serenity. You feel comfortable. The world goes away, and you’re in the land of the Victorians.”
A house with good surprises, too
A hefty price tag for renovations was not the only surprise the house had in store. No, there were positive surprises as well. While touring the home, Johnson pointed out one of the more intriguing things about the house. “You can actually walk through this wall and climb out the drawers of that dresser,” she explained. “You can go up to the attic through the walls. It’s really quite interesting.”
With her plans for a five bedroom veterans hospice dashed, Johnson plans to continue to work with patients in end-of-life care. She has listed the house for sale – at the same price for which she bought it – and will move onto her next project.
A disappointed community
Other members of the community also chimed in on the matter. Village president Dan Barber said to the Rockford Register Star, “I’m kind of disappointed. A lot of the community really wanted that. It’s unfortunate that we’re not going to get it. It would have been a real nice addition to our community.” Although he expressed disappointment, he also made clear that the Village of Petonica offered no help to Johnson’s project.
Originally reported by Susan Vela of the Rockford Register Star.