Rebecca Walpole’s path to becoming a general manager of a hotel in Wilson County has been a long and winding one, full of twists and turns that she never planned.
Walpole was raised in Rutherford County by her grandparents. And although she hesitates to say that they were poor, she says “We were on assistance. Times were tough.”
Walpole started an entry-level job on the ground floor as a housekeeper at WoodSpring Suites Lebanon near Highway 109. Now, she is the general manager.
“I actually went to school to be a medical assistant and was in home healthcare,” the wife and mother of two children said. “I lost a patient and I was in a transition. Until I could find another nursing position, my sister worked for the hotel and told me they needed housekeepers and I thought to myself, ‘Well, I need something.’ ”
Walpole never returned to the healthcare industry.
“I went from housekeeper to a guest attendant at the front desk. In 2012, I was promoted to assistant manager. And then a year and a half over that I was promoted to general manager. Come October, I’ll be GM for five years,” she said.
Walpole is quick to respond when asked what made her stay at WoodSpring Suites Lebanon instead of returning to home healthcare.
“I thoroughly enjoy meeting different people from all over,” she said. “We have such a variety of people. We have construction crews. We have business people in town for conferences. We have people that have moved here and they stay with us in the meantime.”
WoodSpring Suites Lebanon is an extended stay and some of her customers stay as long as a year, giving her time to get to know them.
“I love getting their backstory. Seeing how they got here. It’s interesting to see how somebody got from Las Vegas to here,” she said.
But before her career rise at WoodSpring Suites Lebanon, Walpole discovered knots under her arms when she was pregnant with her son, Aaron, in July of 2001.
“ ‘It’s your soap. It’s your deodorant. It’s what you’re shaving with,’ I kept hearing but they never went away no matter what I did,” she said.
She was eventually diagnosed with non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma and an aggressive treatment of antibiotics was started.
“Eventually they told me that they couldn’t give me anymore antibiotics,” Walpole said.
In April of 2003 she underwent surgery to remove all of her sweat glands and lymph nodes. In February of 2004, just months after surgery, she gave birth to her daughter, Rachel, who is a sophomore at Lebanon High School.
When it comes to backstories, which Walpole admittedly loves, she has her own about how she met her husband, Tim. Although she was raised by her grandparents, her biological father remained in her life.
“Tim was my dad’s supervisor and (my dad) asked for a day off to come to my high school graduation. Tim told him if he brought a picture of me, he’d let him off. He did and Tim was like, “Dang! I need her number,’ ” she said with a laugh.
The graduation was in 1998 and Rebecca and Tim celebrated 20 years of marriage this past July 8.
Tim said his wife’s struggles — lymphoma, the rise from the ground up in her profession — is what makes his wife’s success story so special.
“She went through all of that lymphoma with kids in diapers, worked her tail off. She’s been through the ashes of hell to get where she is,” he said.
When asked how he feels thinking back on all the hurdles and where Rebecca is today, Tim said, “I feel like a veteran looking at the flag when they raise it up in the morning.”