A Niece Looks Back with a Smile and Forward with Hope

 “Remember me with smiles and laughter, for that is how I’ll remember you all. If you can only remember me with tears, then don’t remember me at all. “  

While many attribute this quote to American writer Laura Ingalls Wilder that was later incorporated into an episode  of “Little House on the Prairie” television show in the mid 1970’s, it could have just as easily been written by Willa Marsh Price lifelong resident of Burlington, North Carolina. “My aunt, fondly known to many as ‘Aunt Willa’ was like a second mother to me,” shares niece Dr. Roslyn Crisp. “With an infectious smile, she loved to make people laugh.” As a pediatric dentist, Dr. Crisp knows a thing or two about smiles. 

Willa’s “smile” didn’t just show up on her face, but was also shown in her creativity through sewing, painting and pottery.  “Of course she could bake anything.”  Watching murder mysteries and game shows on television were among the additional cherished pastimes that Willa enjoyed.  After graduating from Jordan-Sellars High School, Willa completed her undergraduate studies at Shaw University and her Master’s Degree at North Carolina Central University.  She was a devoted educator with the Alamance-Burlington School System for many years.  She was a member of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Incorporated and was a charter member of their Burlington Alumnae Chapter. She never married and she had no biological children. For these reasons and more, she dedicated her life to her family, friends and her friends’ children. 

 “My first recollection of a change in Aunt Willa was on a snowy winter day when she insisted that I look at the blooming roses outside the window [there were no actual blooming roses],” offers Roslyn. “She lived alone but spent quite a bit of time with us at our homes.” When night approached, however, Willa always returned to her home alone. “We respected her privacy, but in hindsight I wish that I had been more proactive.”  

Ultimately Willa functioned independently far longer than her family knew while she was slowly developing dementia. “She was able to mask what I would call ‘unusual behavior’ for a short period while visiting us,” shares Roslyn.  “Aunt Willa had been an extremely intelligent person prior to living with dementia, so she was able to spin her off the wall comments into a joking fashion when we realized that she had said or done something unusual.”   Willa also became a hoarder. “I believe she bought multiples of things because she couldn’t remember what she had already bought.”  (Read more from the Association on assessing symptoms and seeking help.)

“The conversations became more and more abstract [with Aunt Willa],” adds Roslyn. “I do believe she felt something was going on also as she became more dependent on me for decisions.”  Roslyn shared that she reached out to a local hospice Alzheimer’s expert for information. After reading information and talking with friends who had experienced similar situations with their relatives, Roslyn knew her family would have a challenging road ahead. “Becoming a victim of Alzheimer’s disease was very unfortunate for Aunt Willa and our family. Like many other folks prior to being diagnosed with the disease, she had been a very vibrant and social person who had never met a stranger and was loved by all.”  Sadly, Willa succumbed to Alzheimer’s in 2019.

Roslyn shares her aunt’s passion not only for learning new things but also giving back to the community through volunteer efforts, especially those that pertain to dental health and the Walk to End Alzheimer’s® in memory of her Aunt Willa. (Read more about proper oral care for those living with dementia.)

“I do it in memory of my aunt. When I began this venture, it was in honor of her. I will never forget her so this is my way of expressing my memory of her.”  Their Walk team was conceived about five years ago. Since Roslyn has loving memories of her aunt’s wonderful smiles along with her own profession as a dentist, the team name, Smiles to Remember, originated from her office where smiles are vitally important. “Since  I am a dentist, smiles are my life.” In addition to the colleagues of Crisp & Associates Pediatric Dentistry,  Roslyn’s family, friends and community supporters are part of their walk team. “I encourage folks to get involved with the Walk to End Alzheimer’s by telling them that this is a cause and a fight that can be won with everyone pulling together.” Roslyn admits that fundraising is relatively simple in that the members of their team reach out to their friends and family through a combination of social media outreach and texting. Their team’s goal for this year is $13,500. 

The funds raised through the Walk to End Alzheimer’s are critically important in underwriting many of the programs and services that it provides.  “I’m very interested and supportive of the Association’s research component,” affirms Roslyn.  “Like cancer, I do believe this horrible disease can be cured if detected early.” Roslyn and her team are gearing up for Walk to End Alzheimer’s – Alamance County on September 25, 2021.  Her favorite part about walk day is being out and together with so many like-minded people. “And of course,  seeing all the flowers is great!”  

As Joseph Addison once wrote, “What sunshine is to flowers, smiles are to humanity.” Don’t you think Aunt Willa would agree?


LIKE ROSLYN, WE ALL HAVE A REASON TO FIGHT FOR A WORLD WITHOUT ALZHEIMER’S DISEASE. Join your local Walk to End Alzheimer’s today.

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 Walk to End Alzheimer’s® in person this fall. The health and safety of our participants, volunteers and staff remain our top priorities as we make decisions about event details in your community, and we’ll continue to offer options to participate online and in your neighborhood.

2021 NORTH CAROLINA WALK DATES

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.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s