Everyone loves a good love story, especially this time of year. Films like “The Notebook,” “When Harry Met Sally,” “An Affair to Remember” … even recent Super Bowl commercial “Loretta” created buzz for the heartwarming ad featuring an elderly man using Google to keep the memory of his love story with his wife alive. But how do couples in the real world carry on their love stories when things like age, illness, and distance can get in the way?
Joe and Mary O’Dowd are one such couple. The couple met at a USO Canteen during World War II while Joe was a sailor and married in 1946. When Mary was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease at age 65, Joe became her primary caregiver. Inevitably, Mary’s Alzheimer’s became too advanced for Joe to manage on his own, and the O’Dowd family was in search of a place nearby where Mary could be given a higher level of expert care. They turned to Christian Health Care Center (CHCC) in Wyckoff, NJ, known for its multi-levels of care, including its specializations in treatment and care for Alzheimer’s disease, other forms of dementia, and memory care. Mary first arrived in 2001, and for the next year, Joe traveled back and forth from nearby Emerson to visit and spend time with his wife as she progressed through CHCC’s continuum of care. He never missed a day of visiting her.
By the following year, the constant travel became tiring for Joe, who was then into his 80s. He was able to move into Evergreen Court, independent senior apartments which are also on CHCC’s Wyckoff campus, just steps away from Mary. As her Alzheimer’s progressed, Mary transitioned into Southgate, a special-care skilled nursing unit at CHCC focusing on behavior management and dementia, and later to Heritage Manor Nursing Home at CHCC, where she eventually passed away in 2009 at the age of 86. Living at Evergreen Court allowed Joe to spend time and share meals every day with Mary.
Joe, now a 17-year resident of CHCC, just celebrated his 101st birthday at The Longview Assisted Living Residence with friends, family, and staff. During Longview’s recent 20th anniversary celebration, residents’ wedding photos were on display, including a beautiful photo of Joe and Mary’s wedding in 1946. “She was the most beautiful bride,” he remarks beaming with a large grin showcasing deep dimples in his cheeks. Joe continues to share beautiful stories of their life together with their five children.
At Christian Health Care Center, it is such a privilege to honor the love stories of our many residents, patients, clients, and consumers we welcome to our campuses in Wyckoff, Hawthorne, and Wayne. Thanks to our full continuum of care, from independent senior housing to pre-assisted living and assisted living, skilled-nursing care, mental-health care, dementia and memory support, and beyond, we enable individuals and couples to celebrate love all year round. And for aging couples whose health-care needs elevate at different paces, our staff works tirelessly to maintain a couple’s “togetherness” while keeping both parties safe, cared for, and happy.
More than movies, real-life love stories like Mary and Joe O’Dowd are truly an inspiration to us all, and we are honored that we can help be a part of it.