Every 66 seconds, someone in the U.S. is diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease. One in three seniors will die of Alzheimer’s or dementia, making it the sixth leading cause of death in our country. Unfortunately, it’s a disease that cannot be prevent- ed, cured or slowed. With more than 5 million individuals suffering from this devastating condition, nearly 16 million Americans are finding themselves in the role of caretaker. When Richard “Dick” Holmes married his beloved wife, Edith, he never imagined that he’d become one of them.
Dick, the former mayor of South Pasadena, married the woman he affectionately calls “Miss Edie” almost fifteen years ago after their respective spouses had passed away.
“Edie is such a gracious lady with the most beautiful smile,” he says. “She was the 10th first lady of South
Pasadena. We had a good life before Alzheimer’s. Now she doesn’t smile as much as she used to.” After Edith’s diagnosis in 2009, Dick had to resign as mayor so he could care for her. “This has become my calling,” he says. “God only gives us what we can handle, and my Edie is one of God’s children.”
It is this positive attitude, coupled with his indomitable spirit, that has enabled Dick to chan- nel this personal tragedy into something positive. “I’ve always been success-driven,” he explains. “Once I get started on a project, I can’t give up until I succeed. The Lord’s been good to me and has given me a good life. For some reason, he’s cast me in a leadership role.”
As President of the South Pinellas Senior Citizens Club, Dick started the Green Bench Project aimed at returning the iconic green benches to the streets of St. Petersburg in 1991. “I have been a green bench fan since ‘57,” he says. “They took the benches off the streets in the 60s because they thought too many old people were sitting on them and it made the city look like heaven’s waiting room.” Dick recently sold his car and used the proceeds to purchase several recycled plastic green benches for his retirement community, the Fountains at Boca Ciega Bay.
Dick has brought this same dogged determination to the fight against Alzheimer’s. After joining an Alzheimer’s support group at the Fountains, he learned about the annual Walk to End Alzheimer’s. Sponsored by the Alzheimer’s Association, the walk began in 1989 and has since grown into a nationwide event with more than 50,000 teams participating in over 600 walks. The Walk is the world’s largest event to raise awareness and funds for Alzheimer’s care, support and research, with only 6 percent of donations going toward administrative costs.
“I investigated the Alzheimer’s Association before I got involved,” Dick says, “and I’m impressed with the leadership from the top down.” So he decided to approach his support group about throwing their support behind their already established Alzheimer’s Walk Team. “Their acceptance of my participation was inspiring,” he says. “We partnered with my Green Bench Projects, and our ‘Walk Page’ with the Alzheimer’s Association for our ‘Boca Goes Green for the Cure’ team earned the title of Grand Champion, with over $1,000 in donations.”
Dick personally participated in the Walk to End Alzheimer’s in Clearwater on Oct. 28. Not one to rest on his past accomplishments, he is already planning some special events for 2018. “The first week of October will be set aside to promote Alzheimer’s awareness,” he says. “On October 1, we’re having a birthday party to kick off the Green Bench Stroll, our version of the Walk. We’ll also be holding a Charity Ball to End Alzheimer’s.” He has high hopes that these will become yearly events and has even put money into a trust so that the Stroll and the Ball can continue after he’s gone.
“Our future is at risk unless we can find a way to change the course of this disease,” he explains. “There are so many good causes, but if you’ve had a family member with Alzheimer’s, it’s a strong motivation. The Walk has made us one big family. It’s a good family to join, and who doesn’t want to be part of a good family? I hope people will consider supporting this, not only for Edie, but for all who will follow her until a cure is found.”
For more information, or to make a donation, go to http://act.alz.org/goto/dickedi.