Octavia and Kym Caldwell: Generations of Faith
By Rachael Johns
Many of us who come to visit Asheville, NC, end up staying and calling this area our home. What is it about WNC that beckons such a variety of people from all over the world to live together here? Is it the gorgeous mountain landscape that greets us as we walk outside? Or the vibrant Carolina Blue sky that is our namesake? Is it the friendly nature of our community? Perhaps it is a combination of all of these things. Whatever the causes are, our population is growing. We are thriving in WNC!
There is no question about how beautiful, blessed and bountiful WNC is. The ancient mountains of Appalachia are teeming with a myriad of gemstones. Sapphires, emeralds, garnets and moonstone have been formed by centuries of geological pressure and ecological shifts. Equally exquisite are the people that our mountains have formed. With generations forged by shifts in culture and the increasing pressure of growing pains as more people live here, these mountains seem to cultivate diverse, beautiful people, too.
I’ve recently had the opportunity to meet two of the most lovely and talented women that our mountains have birthed: Mrs. Octavia Caldwell and Ms. Kym Caldwell. Family and faith have forged their successful relationship, both as mother and daughter and as business partners in their family-owned and operated business, WNC Hypertension and Wellness Center.
Mrs. Octavia Caldwell, also known as “O” in the office, has lived in these mountains nearly her whole life. Her daughter, Kym Caldwell, is also a local resident of Buncombe County. Set to interview both women, I quickly learn that these ladies have a unique and beautiful story to share.
I’m early for our appointment. I have a chance to become acquainted with the patient waiting area, which is painted a bright and cheery orange. Posted by the receptionist window there are plaques and accolades from the community, thanking the Caldwells for their commitment and service to Asheville. The dates of the articles span decades of appreciative neighbors. I glance around the waiting room and notice a sign-up sheet for Prayer Requests. This is a spiritual place. This is a healing place.
Professional, attractive and smiling warmly, Kym Caldwell opens the door for me, and gestures for me to come back with her. Sunshine yellow walls greet us as we pass through the rooms for patients and physicians. The staff reflects the sunny disposition with a friendly nod and helpful nature. I’m led upstairs and through a maze of rooms in this older Charlotte Street building.
Kym’s office is in the back corner on the second floor; the color: nurturing yellow. Mrs. Octavia Caldwell rises from her seat and extends her hand to me in greeting. I can see their family resemblance in both manner and countenance. Her smile is as genuine and as lovely as her daughter’s.
We talk comfortably about working in Asheville, about the plaques on the wall, about having a successful business on Charlotte St. Knowing they have built a 30-year practice and seeing the organized, fluid flow of patients being served as I waited, it was easy to believe that the Caldwells have been a medical family for generations. I soon learn that Octavia’s story is different than what I expected.
Originally from Bryson City, Octavia’s parents raised their family in Canton, NC. Octavia’s mother was the “domestic engineer” and kept the family taken care of while also working part time at the local funeral home. Octavia’s father worked for 40+ years in Canton’s Champion Paper Mill in the pulp section. Having only gotten a 5th grade education himself, Octavia’s father was determined to provide the opportunity for all six of his children to attend college. It was his goal to guide his children into becoming better than himself.
His goal was achieved. All six of his children attended college, and many pursued medical and service degrees. Octavia’s eldest brother is a retired physician, her sister is a retired nurse, another brother is a retired social worker and her other two brothers are Vietnam Vets. Octavia herself is a registered nurse with a B.S. in nursing from UNC Charlotte, where she met her husband, Dr. Ronald Caldwell.
They knew they wanted to have their own practice. Coming from a family with a history of hypertension and other health issues simply sealed the deal. After Dr. Caldwell finished his training at Southern Illinois University and his residency with an internist in Springfield, Ill, their young family moved back to Asheville, NC. After the children had begun to grow up, Octavia joined her husband’s medical practice.
Having come from working at an intensive care unit at Baptist Hospital for critical care newborns, Mrs. Caldwell admits she did not have the background of owning her own practice. Her daughter, Kym, however, was “born into business.” Since 3rd grade, Kym remembers getting dropped off from the school bus at her parent’s practice. Daily after school, during summer breaks and other times she did not have school, Kym would sort and file charts for their office.
Though Kym did not intend to work at her parent’s medical practice, she did intend to follow in their footsteps by attending UNC Charlotte. Choosing to study business, Kym got her B.S. in Business Administration with a Management Concentration and was immediately hired by her parents to help manage theirs.
“We complement each other very well. We maintain a professional relationship at work and value the relationship even though we’re a family business,” says Kym. “It was all orchestrated by God,” she says as she tells me about how her brother, Kofi, is their computer engineer, how “He put together the doctor, the nurse, the business manager and brother with a strong interest in IT—every foundational thing we need for this business.”
Her mother has been a pivotal role model in developing the values of healthy living, both physically and spiritually, throughout Kym’s life. Eating well, exercising and devoting time to family and God are the keys to the Caldwell’s generations of success.
“Faith has been a part of our family foundation and business. Our faith has grown over the years and continues to grow. God has plans to bless His people, and He blesses us to be a blessing to others,” says Kym.
“We were all brought up in church,” says O, and they are still active. What has become even more important to her is the relationship she’s built personally with God. Adds Kym, “When you work in the medical field, you see the hardships and how people respond to hardships, and you can see yourself go through the same hardship and come out a winner – and you know the only difference is your faith.”
Spending quality time with her family each year, Octavia plans on at least one giant family vacation with all the children and grandchildren, and, since her mother’s death 5 years ago, she also goes on retreats with her brothers and sister four times a year. Getting together only once a year simply wasn’t enough for the six Walker siblings.
“We work hard,” Octavia says with a grin. And it shows. Soon to hold the Second Annual “The Wealth of Health Conference” here in Asheville in May, WNC Hypertension Center continues to offer new and valuable services to the residents of Asheville and Buncombe County. “(We are) on the cusp of doing even greater things to help people live their best life now. To be living examples of that, to do the best we know how to do, sends a message,” states Kym. The beautiful smile she shares with me shows sincerity and promise. “After 30 years, we’re going to another level.”
It is people like Octavia and Kym Caldwell who shape what Asheville is and becomes. With their commitment to health, family and faith, the Caldwells continue to nourish our community with love.
These effects are rippling. Just take a good look around. It’s common to see people helping each other every day in Western North Carolina. We hold the door open for the next person to enter. We smile and say hello as we pass people on the sidewalk. We let cars into our lane of traffic with a friendly wave. We strike up a conversation with a stranger at the grocery store.
Our comfort, our sincerity, the thoughtfulness we have for one another is a reflection of the faith that we have: faith in God, faith in others, and faith in following your heart. It is by this foundation of faith that we have been richly blessed, and we will continue this cycle of abundance by being a blessing to others.
Rachael Johns is a business content writer with Asheville Creative Content. She enjoys helping empower and promote businesses with classes, website and content support. See www.ashevillecreativecontent.com for more information.