NEW PORT RICHEY — Three days after her mastectomy surgery, Beatrice Weatherholt showed up at work.
"What are you doing here?" asked Gary Taylor, owner of Pit Boss Bar-B-Q, where Weatherholt has been a bartender and cashier for 10 years.
"I was just going to check the wine order," she said. He shooed her back home to continue recovering. Weatherholt, 57, was diagnosed with breast cancer April 2. She has worked in Tampa Bay bars and restaurants for decades. Before Pit Boss, she worked at McGee's Pub & Grille for 14 years. Before that, she worked in Clearwater, notably at the Banana Boat.
"I've been in the area an awful long time," Weatherholt said. "You meet a lot of people through your path. You become like a big huge family."
As news of her diagnosis spread, Taylor and others decided to do what they could to help her. They are hosting a benefit on Sunday at Danny's Bar & Grill at 3105 Grand Blvd. in Holiday to raise money for Weatherholt's medical bills and lost wages. Tickets are $15 in advance and $20 at the door and include a barbecue meal and two drink tickets. There will be a corn toss tournament, a dunk tank and a silent auction, with items from restaurants, golf courses and other businesses.
"No matter what the economy is like, people really like helping people," said Sherry Barnett, co-owner of Danny's Bar & Grill. She's known Weatherholt for 18 years.
"Everybody loves Bea," Barnett said. "She is the perfect bartender. She is outgoing, always has a smile on her face. She is caring. She is concerned about people and the service they get. She's just got a great personality."
Since Weatherholt's diagnosis, she's had her right breast and 29 lymph nodes removed. Out of the lymph nodes, only one was malignant, which is good news. She starts chemotherapy Wednesday.
Weatherholt hopes to be back to work quickly. Her husband of 30 years, Brian, is disabled. They have their 8-month-old granddaughter, Aliyah, living with them, which Weatherholt said has been a blessing.
"She has put a lot of spark and joy in our lives," Weatherholt said.
This is not the first time the community has rallied behind Weatherholt. In 2006, her 18-year-old son, Derek Weatherholt, died in a motorcycle accident in New Port Richey.
"Let me tell you, this cancer is nothing — nothing — on the death of my son," she said. "I have already been through the worst, so I can get through this.
"That pain never goes away."
She said she has been overwhelmed by the kindness of the community these past few weeks. She's thankful, she said.
"People have really reached out," she said. "They show what you have given them: If you are kind to people, they are kind back to you."
Times researcher Natalie Watson contributed to this story. Erin Sullivan can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (727) 869-6229.