Light filters through the windows covered with clear images of purple flowers on a bright green backdrop. The warm glow gives depth to the dark wood making up the walls of the open living room, built around a natural tree trunk that seems to hold up the whole house. There is enough seating for many in this room, which graciously gives way to the dining area and kitchen. It’s the perfect downstairs setup for the seven tenants living upstairs in addition to Jill Warber and her husband, Andy, who renovated this home with help from friends.
There have been many second chances in Jill Warber’s life — her home, the way she helps patients and even how she uses her creative talents.
When they purchased the house, it was far from being a home. The whole place needed to be completely revamped and is still a work-in-progress, she said. But the house given a second chance at being a home is now always full of life. For a time it was foster children who called the upstairs area home, but now it is thriving with those returning to the community after time with the Department of Corrections.
Warber moved to Westport in 1997. She started her own business with a large truck, split into one area for cooking and another for keeping food cool. She drove around the Harbor serving people on their lunch breaks. The sandwiches, burritos, hot dogs and drinks were distributed across 40 stops until she eventually sold the truck when gas prices were climbing higher.
“I couldn’t expect my customers to pay more than if they just brown-bagged it to work or at McDonald’s,” she said. “So I decided to close up shop and look for something else.”
Between purchasing the truck and eventually selling it, she met Andy through mutual friends. Their first date was on the Fourth of July in 1999. They were married a year later, after spending some time living together so she could learn what it was like to live with someone who is a paraplegic.
The day after she sold the truck, she started training to be a certified nursing assistant. After two years working at Grays Habor Health and Rehab, she began working on a nursing degree.
“It takes a lot of skill and compassion, empathy I guess, to take care of people’s daily needs,” she said. “As we age, we need someone there to take care of us.”
What had first been a solid job offer became a passion. But a day on the golf course would change her role as a caregiver. She was rushed to Grays Harbor Community Hospital, then airlifted to Harborview in Seattle, where she learned of the cancer in her right lung and on several parts of her brain.
She has always loved being in the sun while growing up in Yakima.
“I used to get water blisters on my shoulder in the summer. I was the kid who was running around the neighborhood, discarding the layers my mom would put on me,” she said.
Her love of the sun led to a small scare long before she became a nurse. A mole on her neck turned out to be melanoma and was quickly removed. After this latest scare with stage four cancer, she regularly gets checked with X-rays and checkups.
The treatment, including chemotherapy, took its toll on her body. At one point she got what she called “turkey neck,” and used the knitting skills she learned from her grandmothers to create neck cowls. This led to other work, like aprons, scarves and more.
She eventually found a place at Harbor Art Guild, where she began selling her creations.
“I love being a part of the Harbor Art Guild, they really push me to try new things and be creative,” she said. “They were the reason I started making things like this.”
She points to the paintings of natural areas, such as the river near the handicapped-accessible fishing area where her husband likes to spend time, surrounded by fresh sticks and rocks from the area attached to the canvas.
She’d always been crafty. Her grandmothers taught her how to knit and crochet. Using her mother’s sewing machine became one of Warber’s favorite pastimes. While raising her son, she would quilt and play the piano. She didn’t have time while working dark-to-dark shifts at Willapa Harbor Care Center, but she now creates items regularly; aprons that regularly hang at Six River Gallery.
She has always been in contact with Jay’s Farmstand to have her aprons up for sale there as well.
After losing her ability to work due to damage from fighting cancer, Warber continues to volunteer her time at the same place she used to work — Willapa Harbor Care Center in Raymond.
“I’m in the facility still, just in a different role as an ombudsman for one of them,” she said. “I just go in and make sure the residents know their rights are reserved or to solve problems before things get really bad. I love it.”
Her first grandson was born just eight months ago. Her son, Micheal, lives in Portland, Ore., with his new family. Warber takes the train down to see them and visit as often as she can. When he’s old enough, the child will have a home in Aberdeen to visit his grandparents.
“Now I have a second chance to do what I love doing, which is helping people,” she said. “I have faith that God walked through that surgery with me. I think doing things for others is good. I go that direction today. It’s not so much about me.”