From the Mayor 09/21/16

Reprinted with Permission of the Independence Daily Reporter

I was blessed to be born into a family with five older sisters; Rita, Carol, Marie, Alice, and Gail. I use the term “blessed” with complete sincerity, but I should also make it clear that having five older sisters was often a mixed blessing. Starting life as the only male child in a house full of females, I was considered something of an oddity. It was with profound relief that I greeted my brother Joe into the family four years later. And Joe was then followed by John and David, almost but not quite leveling the female to male ratio.

I want to tell you about Marie. She was the middle sister, and was always an incredible athlete. When it was her turn to bat in softball games, the opposing pitchers quickly learned to intentionally walk her every time. If they gave her a pitch within her reach, she would routinely hit it out of the park.

I’ll never forget one time that a pitcher was intentionally walking her and was throwing the pitches about two feet outside the plate. Marie couldn’t stand to be “cheated” out of her chance to hit, so she stepped across home plate and pounded the ball over the right fielder’s head. Only in my dreams was I ever half the athlete that Marie was.

Not only was she gifted athletically, she was also gifted academically. She attended Oklahoma State in pursuit of her lifelong dream to become a veterinarian. After earning her undergraduate degree in Zoology, she was accepted into the Veterinary College and did indeed earn her Doctorate of Veterinary Medicine. She got married and had two daughters. In her spare time, she raised horses, dogs, cats, and birds.

Unfortunately, she and her husband divorced, leaving her to raise two girls alone. They lived in Florida at the time, so I rarely saw her in person. It was a dark day when one of her teenage daughters called to say that her mom wasn’t making sense. As an example, she said that Marie was standing in their kitchen, and asking for directions to her bedroom. Even worse, we found that this wasn’t a new circumstance; it had been getting progressively worse for some time.

It was soon apparent that Marie had early onset Alzheimer’s. My dad and mom moved from Oklahoma to Florida to take care of her, and her final few years were fraught with tragedy. Too soon, she was unable to recognize her own children, her parents, or any of her family members. Her Alzheimer’s affected everyone around her, but most especially her two daughters, who no longer had a mom. My wonderful sister died on October 16, 2009, at the age of 57. In her final days, she was constantly terrified, needed continual care, and required assistance with every part of daily life.

Alzheimer’s is a terrible, tragic disease.

This Saturday, the Alzheimer’s Association will be holding a “Walk to End Alzheimer’s” at our beautiful Riverside Park. The Alzheimer’s Association is the largest not-for-profit funder of Alzheimer’s research. They also provide care and support through many educational programs, as well as services like a 24 hour Helpline for caregivers.

Please consider joining us for a gentle walk around the park this Saturday morning. The event is a money raiser, so donations are great, but there is no charge to register. Registration begins at 9:00 and the walk begins at 10:00.

Mayor Gary Hogsett