After almost five months, Arthelma and Mary Cato are once again back together in their home in LaGrange.
The couple, now both in declining health, are bedridden and could no longer live in their residence until much-needed renovations were completed in their home. Volunteers with the Chattahoochee Fuller Center renovated the couple’s home to make it possible for their return.
For 57 years, Arthelma Cato had been the deacon of the Arbor Grove Baptist Church. For 33 years, Mary Cato was the Deaconess at the church, working with children and helping with whatever was needed. So when their house needed major renovations, the church community, neighbors, family and friends all came together to offer assistance.
Executive director of Chattahoochee Fuller Center, Kim Roberts got involved with the renovation after she heard about the couple’s plight and found out how badly the house was in need of repairs. Roberts was responsible for securing a grant to help finance the house renovation.
“This is our miracle house. This is the first house that we (CFC) have ever worked on in LaGrange,” Roberts said. “Robbie (Salemi) from Home Depot showed me the article from the paper that was asking for volunteers and a picture. I saw the need that was here and when I met the family, I just fell in love with them. I knew we had to try to help them.”
Juanita Harrell has known “Doll” Cato since she was a young girl.
“’Doll’ used to do my hair, I have known her for 60 years,” Harrell said. “My mother would bring me along with my four sisters to all get our hair done for Easter, ‘Doll’ would do us all.”
Harrell went out to seek support for the Cato’s renovation project from the church, small businesses and private individuals.
“I don’t care what it was, if you had a problem, all you had to do was talk to Doll, she would soon call you back and have it solved for you,” Harrell said. “There was nothing that the two of them wouldn’t do for you.”
Siblings, Junior, Bell and Louis Cato were pleased to have their parents back home. Louis Cato lives in the house with his parents and is the principle caregiver for them.
“The house was in bad shape. It needed a new roof, new windows, new heater, even new dry wall, a lot of work went into this house,” Louis Cato said. “When the work was being done, my mother stayed at a neighbor’s house and my father was at the Warm Springs Rehabilitation Center.”
The neighbor, Antonyetta Cotton, provided Mary Cato with a place to stay and helped to care for her from Feb. 12 until April 21, when the house was ready to move back into.
Arthelma Cato was removed from his house on Dec. 20 when he became too ill to be cared for a home. At first he was at a nursing home until he had improved enough to be moved to Warm Springs. On May 5, he was finally allowed to return to his home to be reunited with his wife.
Luther Stargill, a friend of the family, also played a big part in the renovation of the couple’s home.
“I went to Home Depot and got some of the felt for the roof, Juanita and I made sure that this project got done,” Stargill said. “Home Depot also helped by donating the shingles for the back of the house.”
While the renovations were being made, Roberts made a point of visiting Arthelma Cato regularly in Warm Springs to keep him up to date with the progress of the project.
“I wanted him to know that everything was being done to get him and his wife back into their home,” Roberts said.
On the afternoon of May 9, family, friends and representatives from CFC gathered at the residence to mark the return of the couple to their LaGrange home.
“This means the world to me to have my parents back together,” Bell Cato said. “They have been separated since December when Dad really got sick.”
Family members and friends gathered around the couple’s matching hospital beds to have pictures taken to mark the return of Arthelma and Mary Cato to their home.
“Mom and Dad are finally home,” Louis Cato said. “Just in time for their 51st wedding anniversary.”