HOUSTON A prominent Houston public relations executive was found dead Thursday evening in the yard of her Midtown home.

Police initially said Esther Hobbs, 63, appeared to die from natural causes. Pastor Kirbyjon Caldwellsaid Hobbs had cancer and had received chemotherapy a few hours before she was found dead.

Close friend Nancy Hernandez believes she had gone outside to get help when she collapsed.

Hobbs owned Out There Public Relations and had many well-known clients through the years, including Conoco, Brown and Root, Pastor Kirbyjon Caldwell and several popular restaurants.

She served as Director of Communications for the Greater Houston Convention and Visitors Bureau before founding her PR company in 1991. While there she created the original Discover Houston campaign.

Hobbs dedicated much of her time to caring for her 52-year-old sister, Darla Dees. Dees is mentallydisabled and had lived in a state facility for more than three decades. In 1994, Hobbs took her in and became her legal guardian.

She completely changed her life to take care of her sister, Pam Vassallo, a longtime friend, told the Houston Chronicle. You wonder how many people would do that. Esther had a heart of gold.

She opened Darla s School in 2003 after discovering there were few options available for mentally retarded adults. The school on West Gray offered day care, exercise classes and other enrichment activities.

Hobbs was forced to close the school in 2009 when the economy went south and funding dried up.

Vassallo told the Chronicle that Hobbs has suffered from health problems in recent years.

She'll be remembered most for the way she treated others.

Esther s heart, for people in general and for people with special needs, was unparalleled, said Kirbyjon Caldwell, Hobbs pastor at Windsor Village United Methodist Church. Esther had the gift of encouragement. She would see the best in everybody and encourage you to do your best.

An autopsy will be performed to determine the exact cause of death.

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