This is the story of little Maryrose Marlene Gaddy and her Thanksgiving miracle. Maryrose was born in Asheville, North Carolina, in 1960. She was diagnosed with cystic fibrosis, a serious childhood illness that interfered with her ability to breathe.
Despite her challenges, Maryrose was known as “Little Miss Happiness,” often performing acts of kindness for those around her. Her sweet disposition helped her win the hearts of Asheville and Buncombe County residents.
Maryrose and her mother periodically traveled to Chapel Hill by bus, some 220 miles away, for medical treatment. After one trip, Maryrose and her mom returned home to the Asheville bus station. They were exhausted and happily accepted a ride home from two Asheville police officers. As the car turned on Patton Avenue, 7-year-old Maryrose brightened. “You know what, Mommy? Someday, I’d like to stay a night on the top floor of that building over there,” she said, pointing to a sleek new hotel, the Downtowner Motor Inn.
Maryrose’s mother sighed and said slowly, “That will have to be your dream, Maryrose. But it can only be a dream because we could never afford it.” Listening from the front seat were officers Phil Bryson and J. W. Silvey. The sweet request touched their hearts.
Several weeks later, Officers Bryson and Silvey were investigating the theft of a TV at the Downtowner Motor Inn. While there, they mentioned the overheard conversation between Maryrose and her mother to the hotel’s proprietor, Joe Emerson Rose.
Mr. Rose quickly determined he could help a sick little girl achieve her dream and extended an invitation to the Gaddys. The day before Thanksgiving in 1967, Maryrose and her mother checked into the top-floor suite of the hotel. For 24 hours, the Downtowner rolled out the red carpet for its special VIP guests. They enjoyed two Thanksgiving feasts – one on Wednesday and one on Thanksgiving Day. But the highlight for Maryrose was her bird’s eye view overlooking Asheland Avenue and the annual Christmas parade. “I’m so excited my stomach’s about to die,” said Maryrose as she eagerly anticipated the parade’s start.
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