Roger and Judy Update, October 21, 2017

Last summer I made a pilgrimage to Macomb, IL, the home of my alma-mater Western Illinois University, to visit with Roger and Judy Gedney. Roger was my gymnastics coach in college, and Judy had been the girl’s gymnastics coach at my High school.

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We were the Western Illinois Bulldogs!

It had been four years since I had seen them, and at that time they had just moved into Wesley Estates, an independent living facility for seniors that is designed to provide them with a supportive environment through the end of life. At that time they were both hale and hearty. Roger was 77, and Judy was 73 and still carried herself like the world champion powerlifter that she had morphed into late in life.

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Duplex Units in the Wesley Estates Facility

The first sign that all was not well was when I found that Judy’s phone had been disconnected. I found that her cognitive functions had deteriorated due to the onset of ┬áCorticobasal Ganglionic Degeneration (CBGD). Further details can be found in my blog post Roger and Judy and I from last July. Roger was then living in an apartment in the Wesley Retirement unit, and Judy was in a room in their Rehabilitation Unit.

My post from that time achieved a wider range of distribution than I typically get. A month later Colleen and Jerry Westberg, alumni of the women’s and men’s gymnastics team at Western Illinois made the trip from their home in Quincy, IL to visit the Gedney’s. Colleen reported to me that Judy had been quite responsive and happy to see them at the time. She sent me the picture below.

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The Gedney’s and the Westberg’s.

A couple of months ago I received a disturbing message from Colleen. They had made another visit to the Gedney’s, and this time they did not get the same response from Judy that they had before. She was completely unresponsive, and they were very concerned that her condition had deteriorated even more. It had been over a year since my last visit, and I decided that I needed to make a return trip, so my sister Alice, who had been on Judy’s girls team in high school, and I took a day trip to Macomb to check in on the Gedney’s.

We first met in Roger’s apartment in the Retirement unit. Roger and Judy were on the couch. Judy appeared to be sleeping, and we had a very nice conversation with Roger. Alice is hoping to go on a mission to Haiti in the near future, and Roger and Judy had done extensive work down there on behalf of the Salvation Army, so Roger was able to provide Alice with advice and insight on that front.

After a half-hour or so Roger suggested that we take a tour of the facility, and he roused Judy. To my great relief she woke with a smile on her face, and that smile mostly persisted through the rest of our visit. She seemed to recognize us and made some attempts at communication. Roger said that her physical therapy has gone well. She is now able to walk with the assistance of a single person, and her daily walks can now be measured in hundreds of yards. Her cognitive skills have not made much of a recovery, but Roger says that wherever her mind is at he feels it must be a happy place based on the infectious smile she wears when she is not too tired to respond.

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Roger and Judy and I

Roger remains a devoted husband, and he is at her side throughout her waking hours, and it is very inspiring to see the depth of his devotion to her.

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The basement of the Salvation Army with Tim Piper and Alice

Before heading out of town we did stop by the Salvation Army church to visit one part of Roger’s legacy in Macomb. Over 30 years ago Roger opened up a weight-training facility in the basement of the church, and that facility continues to thrive under the leadership of his disciple Tim Piper. Generations of young people have found a home there, and there are a number of kids from the current generation who will be competing at the national level this year.

 

 

Where is Captain Univac?, Tuesday, October 17, 2017

That is a legitimate question given that my last blog post was on 9/21. Right now it is 5 am and I am writing in a Denny’s in Moab, Utah. I am letting Kerry Ward get some recovery sleep before we hit the road. Kerry had spent the 78 hours beginning at 7 am Friday running through the deserts, canyons, and mountains of eastern Utah in the Moab 240 endurance run, and he was the 11th finisher out of a field of 127, 60 of whom are still on the trail as I write.

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Kerry Ward at the finish of the Moab 240

It will be a long drive today as I will be heading back home to Long Beach, dropping Kerry off at the Las Vegas airport so he can get back to his job. I will be flying out tomorrow to the Chicago area to visit family and will be coming back to a more stable existence a week from today.

Where I have been is a more difficult question. It has been a bit of a whirlwind over the last 6 weeks, and I have way too much material to blog about and have had way too little time, so I am going to use this post to try to put a bit of perspective on things.

When I last posted I had just returned from about 10 days of travel up to the Canadian border, spending time in Washington and Oregon. On 9/27 I drove out to Las Vegas to work as a volunteer for Circus Couture, my friend Erica Linz’s annual charity event. Erica has done this event for 9 years now, and it has raised almost 1.6 million dollars for the fight against pediatric cancer. I arrived on Wednesday, spent Thursday working on the setup for the art auction, did more setup and enjoyed rehearsals and the final show on Friday. My plan is to do a couple of posts about this event once life settles down.

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Circus Couture cast

Saturday morning I drove back to Long Beach early so that I could attend a concert at my favorite venue, the Secret Bowl. My friend James Combs and his band Great Willow have been receiving some well-deserved airplay lately, and this was their CD release party. It was a great show, and typically I also got to meet some other amazing artists. This time Great Willow shared the stage with a lovely and talented singer/songwriter Amilia K Spicer. The show closed with the canyon rock of the band I See Hawks in LA. A great show and worthy of a blog post that I hope to get out some day.

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Great Willow at the Secret Bowl

I had about a week back in Long Beach that was highlighted by a persimmon harvest with Harvest Partners LB just down the street from me on 10/2,an Open Mic at the Fox Coffee House on 10/5, and the final performance of the play Kill Climate Deniers at the Garage Theatre, directed by my friend Ashley Elizabeth Allen, on 10/7.

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Cast of Kill Climate Deniers

Things got crazy again starting on Sunday, 10/8. I picked up Kerry at LAX that morning, we got in a hike in Santa Ynez Canyon before heading to Original Muscle Beach in Santa Monica for some acro play time. On Monday I worked with Kerry on one of his Corporate Explorer gigs in Newport Beach, and then we started heading this way, spending that night in Las Vegas.

We stopped in St. George, UT, on Tuesday and managed to get in a very thrilling hike down Snow Canyon that involved a whole lot of scrambling and three rappels, the last one down a 200 foot cliff face as darkness descended.

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Snow Canyon Scene

On Wednesday we drove to Moab and set up camp for the featured event, the Moab 240 endurance race. That is a 238.9 mile run through the deserts, canyons, and mountains of eastern Utah. Thursday we had pre-race preparations, Kerry ran from Friday morning at 7 am until his finish yesterday (Monday) afternoon at about 1 pm. I was his crew for the race, a job that involves driving all over this area to remote aid stations to provide support for him.

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Race route and status Sunday morning. Courtney kicked ass!

I did have some stretches of several free hours and did manage to get in a hike in Canyonlands National Park on Friday and a quick tour of Arches National Park on Sunday.

It is now time to get this published, wake Mr. Ward, and get back on the road. I hope to be back to Long Beach late this afternoon so I can get ready for my Chicago trip. The adventure continues!