Hero Nurse Leaves Community Legacy

Over the past year, society has focused on nurses as being one profession deserving of all the hero medals. We all have an image of this hero nurse in our head: hardworking, kind, selfless, warm. While nurses were front and center this past year, they have heroes in our community long before that — much of their courageous work behind the scenes. One such nurse and hero was Pat Hardy of Surry County.

“My grandfather was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease in the early 90s,” remembers Pat’s daughter Kathryn Freed, “this is when [society] was becoming more aware of the disease.” While Pat had already worked as a nurse for Northern Hospital for 30 years, she also stepped into the role of caregiver, adding to “mom”, “wife”, and “daughter” roles. Even while her father-in-law was alive, Pat began reaching out to her community to both find support and support others by forming one of the first Alzheimer’s caregiver support groups in her county. Even as she retired in 1999, she continued caring for those around her. Kathryn remembers warmly that she might have had only four biological children, but she had “many more daughters and sons”. “She never missed one of our ball games. Everyone called her mom,” shares Kathryn.

This community leadership only strengthened after Pat’s father-in-law passed. She began walking in the Old Salem Memory Walk with her daughters in the late 1990s, raising funds for community care and support. She led education classes, hosted guest speakers in her support group, and attended conferences for caregivers. “She always had brochures and information packets,” shares Kathryn, “she was one of those people that always did for others before herself.” So when Pat herself was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease around 2004, her decline in energy was felt by the full community.

The family first started noticing signs of her eventual disease a couple of years before she was diagnosed. She would forget where she put her keys, or think her husband was “just right outside” when he was actually at work. At first, the family brushed off these signs as just consequences of a busy life, as we all are. Eventually the signs became impossible to argue away. While Kathryn shares that Pat never lost her sense of love, Pat would often be found just sitting around after her diagnosis. This decline was especially difficult for Pat’s husband, who passed away suddenly a month after moving Pat into a memory care community. Pat eventually stopped talking around 2009, forgot her family’s names or relationships along the way, and passed in 2014.

After Pat’s diagnosis, Kathryn and her dad stepped into her mom’s community caregiver role by taking over facilitating the support group temporarily, before transitioning it smoothly over to her local Alzheimer’s Association to manage. She and her older sisters began walking in their local Walk to End Alzheimer’s – Mount Airy annually. Kathryn even joined the walk planning committee a few years ago. When Kathryn sees the generous gift given through her Walk team, Walking for Pat, it reminds her that the “community knows what we went through.” She wants to make sure that others in her community also have that care. Her Walk team consisting only of Kathryn and her two sisters, Vickie and Martha, were even one of the top fundraising teams a couple of years ago. Through the pandemic, Kathryn became comfortable with online fundraising, connecting a Facebook fundraiser to her participant page. These tools have helped her be even more successful. Even though this year’s walk is still a few months away, Kathryn’s team is already at 79% of their $1,500 goal! A true testament to the love that continues for Pat and her family.

When thinking about Walk day, Kathryn’s favorite part of the whole experience is the Promise Garden Ceremony. While she is surrounded by people that have been touched by this disease in many ways, she is reminded of how her mother cared for many around her. As Kathryn prepared for her remarks as representing the purple flower the year after her mother passed, she mainly wanted the community to remember her mother as “everyone’s mother.” “Participating in the Walk to End Alzheimer’s was what my mother loved to do,” shares Kathryn. Wanting to keep that fight alive, Kathryn pushes for Alzheimer’s disease awareness as a way to memorialize the hero nurse Pat.


The Alzheimer’s Association hosts 17 walks across North Carolina. The Alzheimer’s Association Walk to End Alzheimer’s is the world’s largest event to raise awareness and funds for Alzheimer’s care, support and research. Since 1989, the Alzheimer’s Association® mobilized millions of Americans in the Alzheimer’s Association Memory Walk®; now the Alzheimer’s Association is continuing to lead the way with Walk to End Alzheimer’s. Together, we can end Alzheimer’s.

We’re moving forward with plans to host the Alzheimer’s Association Walk to End Alzheimer’s® in person this fall. We are planning every Walk with the health and safety of our constituents, staff and volunteers as our top priorities. All events will implement safety protocols including physical distancing, masks (where required), contactless registration, hand sanitizing stations and more. We will continue to closely monitor Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), state and local guidelines to ensure Walk events adhere to recommendations and are safe for attendees, as well as offer options to participate online and in your neighborhood.


Alamance County – 9.25.21
Asheville – 10.9.21
Charlotte – 10.23.21
Fayetteville – 10.30.21
Gaston/Cleveland/Lincoln – 10.9.21
Guilford County – 10.16.21
Henderson County – 9.25.21
Hickory – 10.31.21
Iredell County – 9.25.21
Jacksonville – 10.16.21
Moore County – 9.25.21
Mount Airy – 9.18.21
New Bern – 10.23.21
Rowan-Cabarrus – 10.30.21
Triangle – 10.9.21
Wilmington – 11.6.21
Winston-Salem – 11.6.21

Add Your Flower to the Fight to End Alzheimer’s.

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