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Sisters step up in their father's honor for Alzheimer's Walk to Remember

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Shelly Birkelo
August 23, 2012

— Fond memories of their father, Thedford Grady, who died in March 2011 from complications of Alzheimer's disease, still bring tears to his daughters' eyes almost 18 months later.

Yet the three Beloit women aren't sitting idly in self-pity over their loss.

Instead, they're stepping up to create awareness and raise money as the honorary family for the Alzheimer's Support Center of Rock County's annual Walk to Remember on Saturday, Sept. 8, at Riverside Park, 1160 Riverside Drive.

"They'll celebrate the life of Thedford, as well as other people with Alzheimer's, dementias and their families and caregivers," said Dan Wilcox, fund development/public relations coordinator of the support center, headquartered in downtown Janesville.

The center has set a goal of raising $40,000 so it can keep providing services to the thousands of people in Rock County who are affected by Alzheimer's and related dementias, Wilcox said.

The money is critical to the center, which provides support, education and advocacy for those with Alzheimer's and other dementias, as well as their caregivers, friends and family members, he said.

"Without it, people will have to travel to Milwaukee, Madison or Rockford for services. All money raised stays in our community," Wilcox said.

Pam Pinckney, Patricia Grady and Debbie Grady agreed that their father was a happy-go-lucky family man who loved the Green Bay Packers and spent more than three decades working on the line at the Chrysler plant in Belvidere, Ill.

"He was a tiny guy," Patricia said.

"But stronger than a bull," Pam added.

"He was always peaceful and sweet," Debbie said.

So as he gradually changed into someone who was confused, anxious and sad, they didn't understand why.

"We know now it was the Alzheimer's," Patricia said.

"He couldn't process in his brain what was happening, and we didn't know for sure until he was diagnosed with a brain scan in 2007," Pam said.

"He had it at least a couple years before we knew," Debbie said.

Thedford began getting lost while driving his grandchildren to and from school. He also started imagining that people were taking things from the house.

Gradually, he became more depressed and combatant and no longer wanted to go to church or out in public.

Eventually, Thedford got lost in his own house and needed his family's around-the-clock care. He lost 40 pounds during his last six months of life.

By the time the family connected with the Alzheimer's Support Center, Thedford was already in advanced stages of the disease, his daughters said.

Still, they found the support center's resources helpful because "we didn't know what to expect," Pam said.

The Grady sisters want others to know that they don't have to go through this horrible disease alone.

"It takes a village of people to care for someone with Alzheimer's," Debbie said honestly. "So don't be too proud to ask for help."

After reading a book the support center gave them, "it helped us understand the disease and its different stages," Pam said.

And, "once we understood, it didn't scare or alarm us," so much anymore, Patricia said.

Instead, Debbie said, "It helped us deal more with it."



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