From Freep.com

https://www.freep.com/story/news/local/michigan/detroit/2020/12/25/southwest-detroit-neighbors-sing-community-pillar-returns-home/4042466001/

 

Southwest Detroit neighbors sing as community pillar returns home after battle with tumor

Miriam Marini
Detroit Free Press
 
 
 
 

'Twas the afternoon before Christmas and more than two dozen neighbors in southwest Detroit bundled up to brace the cold and line the sidewalks of Hubbard Street.

After three months of intensive surgeries and rehab, a beloved community figure was finally coming home and his neighbors were readying themselves to cheer and sing Christmas carols as Wes Nethercott, 65, arrived.

Still, his unmistakable sense of humor remained: "I wish I had a speech prepared," Nethercott said as he sat in his wheelchair on the sidewalk before his home, situated in the middle of a circle of neighbors — both those currently living in Hubbard Farms and some who have since left the area.

To say the neighborhood is close-knit is an understatement. The Nethercotts came to Detroit in 1988 and have lived in their southwest home since 1991, becoming community pillars in this time. 

Wes Nethercott of Detroit greets and talks with neighbors from the Hubbard Farms community in Detroit on Thursday, Dec. 24, 2020.
Nethercott had just gotten home and was greeted by over 30 friends and neighbors after being at Henry Ford Hospital for three months while battling a brain tumor.
People sang Christmas carols to him and his wife Shaun Nethercott before he got a tour of the remodeled basement set up for him to live in while recovering and going through rehabilitation.
 

"This is what community looks like, we simply would not have made it without the love, support, prayers, and food of so many people," Wes' wife, Shaun Nethercott, said, standing on the home's porch before the neighbors. "People have been more than astonishing, more than loving and more than giving."

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Awaiting the couple at the home was a completely renovated basement, remodeled to provide easier entry access for Wes, made possible with the help of volunteers, a local contractor and thousands of dollars raised by donations from neighbors.

"Not a penny from the government went into this effort," said Janet Ray, who lives next door to the Nethercotts and was largely responsible for coordinating the home's renovation and the welcome home parade.

"Part of what makes Detroit be Detroit is people do collective action and they have a spirit of solving a problem together," Shaun said.

Wes Nethercott of Detroit listens to neighbors from the Hubbard Farms community in Detroit on Thursday, Dec. 24, 2020 talk about how much they missed him.
Nethercott had just gotten home and was greeted by over 30 friends and neighbors after being at Henry Ford Hospital for three months while battling a brain tumor.
People sang Christmas carols to him and his wife Shaun Nethercott before he got a tour of the remodeled basement set up for him to live in while recovering and going through rehabilitation.
 

It was Sept. 14 when doctors found a tumor on Nethercott's brain stem. Upon further inspection, the tumor was much worse than doctors had expected.

What followed was a month in the intensive care unit and eight weeks of therapy, during which "everything had to be rebooted," Shaun said. Wes had a particularly difficult recovery that included three life-threatening complications: an E. coli infection in his lungs, two blood clots and liver failure.

Wes told neighbors he saw translucent figures at one point. He turned to one figure and said, "I'm sorry, you have to leave."

In the time that the Nethercotts, founders of the Matrix Theatre in southwest Detroit, were in the facility — with Shaun never able to actually be by Wes's side due to coronavirus restrictions, which didn't stop her from visiting every day — neighbors worked around the clock to support the couple. 

Volunteers took shifts laying tile, painting walls and pouring cement to ensure the walkway was wide enough for Wes' new wheelchair. Even between basement renovation duties, neighbors fed the cat, took their car for oil changes and would bring food to Shaun at the hospital and eat lunch with her. 

"Our friends picked us up and carried us over the hard parts," Shaun said.

Neighborhoods like Hubbard Farms are hard to come by in the 2020, except in a city like Detroit that's comprised of little havens filled with caring people, which Shaun refers to as the secret story of Detroit.

"Because Detroiters are so challenged, they've learned to lean on each other," Shaun said. "They have social capital because they don't have capital. They have relationships and they have networks and people really depend on each other. I think it's the strength of the community that has always been the beauty of this city."

Wes' road to a full recovery remains long and will be difficult, Shaun said. But neighbors are at the ready and eager to step in whenever and wherever they're needed. 

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