“I know everyone thinks that their mom is special, but mom was truly one of a kind,” very emotionally shares Diane Beecher of Wilmington, North Carolina when speaking of her mother, Eileen. “She was the sweetest, most selfless person you have ever met!” Diane grew up in Bethesda, Maryland with her twin sister, Debbie, as well as two younger sisters, Lori and Nancy. Their father, Bill, had an important job that required extensive travel; therefore, Eileen had the lion’s share of raising the four girls in the earlier years. “When the youngest of my sisters went to school, mom had more time on her hands and became a kindergarten teacher,” adds Diane. Eileen taught at the same school for 35 years. She taught the kids and the kids grew up and got married and she taught their kids in the same classroom. “There was not a place we could walk anywhere in the area where previous students wouldn’t run up and say ‘Mrs. Beecher, you changed my life!’ Invited to their weddings and graduations, she was revered and loved by the whole community.” In addition to raising her own four girls and being a grandmother to ten, Eileen felt as if she had raised hundreds and hundreds of school children whose lives she shaped so beautifully. Always maintaining a positive attitude and sunny disposition, Eileen continuously asked, “What can I do for you?” “Mom embraced life and was full of life. She always had a spark in her eye.” Sadly, that spark began to flicker about seven years ago.
“We noticed that mom began forgetting things,” notes Diane. “All the while we had visions of our grandmother [who had also lived with the disease] in the back of our minds.” Eileen had moved her mom in with them and was her sole caregiver for twelve years. Diane and her sisters had witnessed firsthand the devastating effects of Alzheimer’s disease. “My sisters and I worried that mom was going to get it one day and wondered what was down the road for the four of us.”
As Eileen’s condition continued to decline, they took her to numerous doctors but ended up with a reputable physician at John Hopkins. “He said it was Alzheimer’s. We were all crushed.” Diane is grateful that her family had the resources to do what was necessary to care for her mother. Upon Eileen’s initial diagnosis, Diane admits that all the family wanted to do was roll up their sleeves and help fix her mom all the while knowing that Alzheimer’s is currently not ‘fixable.’ “One of the renowned doctors shared with me, ‘Diane, all your family can do is love her and keep her comfortable and safe.’”
Married for 61 years, Diane’s parents had a loving relationship. Upon retiring, Diane’s dad was a novelist and adjunct professor at University of Maryland until it became unsafe for him to leave Eileen alone at the house. They moved to Wilmington in October 2018 to be closer to Diane and her sister who also lived in the area. By March 2019, Eileen experienced a significant decline. Consequently, the family brought in care for Eileen so they could focus their time on loving her. “Dad had woken her every morning that they’d been together by singing her a song,” shares Diane. “Mom loved Broadway show tunes.” Even as they transitioned Eileen to hospice care, the family always showed her pictures, shared memories and told her funny stories. “We hoped she heard them and we believe she did.”
Eileen Beecher passed away peacefully on March 4, 2020, surrounded by her loving family, heartbroken by her absence, but full of love and gratitude for who she was and what she gave to so many.
While Diane readily admits that she doesn’t know a lot about the Alzheimer’s Association she’s eager to learn more. “If I had all the time in the world I would roll up my sleeves and this would be my 24/7-day job to raise money and awareness for the Association.” Diane recalls a serendipitous Association email in 2019 while caring for her mom and it spoke to her. “I said, ‘What’s this?’ It was an email promoting the Wilmington Walk [to End Alzheimer’s].” She jumped in last minute, did what she could and walked in person. “I was very impressed by the caliber of the people I met at the event.” Owning a consulting business, Diane does considerable work with health care and non-profit businesses, associations as well as for profit businesses. “I know good leadership when I see it and know when an organization is run well. The Alzheimer’s Association has impressed me on every level, from the knowledge and passion of its people to the important work that it is doing. I definitely plan to get more involved.”
Diane’s work schedule currently keeps her quite busy, but she manages to continue raising funds for the Association and affirms that she’s one of the Association’s biggest fans. Diane’s Walk Team Embracing Eileen has already exceeded its goal for 2020 through sending emails and Facebook fundraisers. Team members consisting of family and friends will be walking on November 7 in Eileen’s memory. “Participating in the Walk is important to me because I believe it takes a village and together we can move mountains.” Diane notes that the organization is phenomenal and doing lots of things; however, it is nothing without the individuals who are supporting it as well. “Even if someone participates but is unable to donate money, the fact that they are there shows that they care.”
Feeling the energy of everyone coming together and holding the flowers during the Promise Garden Ceremony is particularly powerful to Diane. “To me the flowers represent that everyone has their own unique story and own personal connection to this brutal disease — We are all in it together and trying to advance it together. Whether I raise a penny or a million dollars we are all still supporting the cause. I know my mom would be proud.”
LIKE DIANE WE ALL HAVE A REASON FOR WE ARE FIGHTING FOR A WORLD WITHOUT ALZHEIMER’S DISEASE. Start your own team or join an existing team for one of our nineteen North Carolina Walk to End Alzheimer’s events:
The world may look a little different right now, but one thing hasn’t changed: our commitment to ending Alzheimer’s. This year, Walk to End Alzheimer’s® is everywhere — on every sidewalk, track and trail. Your health and safety are our top priorities. We won’t have a large in-person gathering — instead, we invite you to walk in small teams of friends and family while others in your community do the same. Because we are all still walking and fundraising for the same thing: a world without Alzheimer’s and all other dementia.
When you participate in the Alzheimer’s Association Walk to End Alzheimer’s®, you’re part of a community that cares — and that community, which starts in your backyard and stretches across the country, has never needed us more. With the dollars we raise, the Alzheimer’s Association® can provide care and support during these uncertain times while advancing critical research toward methods of treatment and prevention.
Register today at alz.org/walk and join the movement.
2020 WALK DATES
Alamance County – 9.26.20
Asheville – 10.10.20
Charlotte – 10.17.20
Fayetteville – 10.31.20
Gaston/Cleveland/Lincoln – 9.12.20
Guilford County – 10.17.20
Henderson County – 9.26.20
Hickory – 10.24.20
Iredell County – 10.10.20
Jacksonville – 10.17.20
Moore County – 9.26.20
Mount Airy – 9.12.20
New Bern – 10.25.20
North Wilkesboro – 10.10.20
Robeson County – 10.24.20
Rowan-Cabarrus – 10.24.20
Triangle (Raleigh-Durham) – 10.10.20
Wilmington – 11.7.20
Winston-Salem – 10.3.20