Falling more deeply in love as a caregiver
Bob and Judy Lake participated in the opening ceremony at last year’s Humboldt County Walk to End Alzheimer’s. They held up flowers representing their roles as a caregiver and as someone living with Alzheimer’s. This year, Bob will be walking in honor of Judy, who passed away in March.
Falling in love
Bob and Judy met at work. Bob worked in the food service industry in the Bay Area and Judy worked for one of his clients in Fresno. Whenever Bob was in Fresno, he’d take Judy out to a work dinner.
One day, Judy called Bob to see if he wanted to be friends. He said “of course” and invited her for a walk on the beach. Their friendship grew and three months later Bob told Judy he had feelings for her.
Judy told Bob that she also had feelings for him and had known she wanted to be more than friends for a long time. Bob and Judy remained together for 40 years, eventually moving to Trinidad, CA just outside of Eureka. Together they purchased and operated Katy’s Smokehouse and Fish Market, where they worked together for twenty years.
Judy spent many years as a teacher. She could see when a child was in trouble in the classroom and would do whatever it took to get that student into a good place to learn. “We used to refer to her as a pied piper,” joked Bob. “it could be any group of kids and they’d just be following her around like ants.”
Judy also did a lot for her church and family; she enjoyed her charity work. “I got to take a back seat to that and did so happily” shared Bob, “because it was Judy being Judy.”
In 2007, Judy was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease. She and Bob participated in research programs at UC San Francisco. At first Judy was in denial about having Alzheimer’s. Eventually she grew to accept it.
Despite the diagnosis, Judy had a great amount of courage and remained positive about her life. She adapted every day to focus on what she was capable of doing. She continued to live at home with Bob for 10 years after her diagnosis.
Falling more in love
In 2017 Judy moved into a care facility. Bob would drive there every night after work to see her. “Judy was a positive influence at the care home,” Bob said. “Even with Alzheimer’s she’d get people up from the table and say, ‘come on let’s take a walk, we can’t sit around.’ It was very inspiring to watch.”
As Judy’s Alzheimer’s progressed, Bob became more outwardly emotional about his love for her. Spending time with her and caring for her made Bob feel closer to Judy than he had before.
Bob shared that “the way I had to engage with her as her caregiver, for me it was like falling in love all over again in a very special and very deep way.”
Judy died in March 2019. “I still remember my wife as being the most spectacular person,” said Bob. “I’m grateful that she chose me to be her partner.”
What Walk meant to Judy
Judy was a leader in anything she became involved with, both personally and professionally. Bob shared that Walk day had a significant emotional meaning for her.
Last year was Judy’s hardest Walk. Bob and Judy had been asked to be in the promise flower ceremony holding yellow and blue flowers, representing their roles as a current caregiver and someone living with the disease.
Bob asked Judy if she was sure that she want to be part of the ceremony and Judy said “Yes!” It was a way for her to be totally invested.
Judy looked forward to representing the community of those living with Alzheimer’s. “You could see the light in her eyes as she stood on the stage,” said Bob.
After the ceremony Bob and Judy joined the other participants as they walked along the water and held up their flowers. Bob loved that as he and Judy came to the finish line, there was someone there to take a picture.
The Walk experience
Bob will be participating in the Humboldt County Walk again this year. He will be back on stage, holding a purple flower this time, representing those who have lost a loved one to Alzheimer’s.
For Bob, Walk is about the people. “You will have fun. The people you meet aren’t there because they’re unhappy or disgruntled,” Bob has found. “They’re there for a sincere reason. You can’t help but be heart struck when you see someone helping an elderly person do the walk.”
Bob encourages others to participate because “Alzheimer’s is an ugly disease that we do not have a cure for.” Funds raised through the Walk to End Alzheimer’s fund research, care and support programs.
For first-time participants, Bob suggests interacting with others at the Walk. “It’s a good opportunity to find out as much as you can about the disease,” suggested Bob.
You can join Bob’s team, Walking for Judy, or form your own team and join us for the Humboldt County Walk to End Alzheimer’s on October 12 at the Adorni Center. Not in Humboldt County? Find the Walk to End Alzheimer’s near you at alz.org/walk.