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.
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.
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 Corticobasal 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.
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.
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.
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.