“Mom was a beautiful, bright light and just the loveliest of people,” shares Katharine Fuchs of Charlotte, North Carolina referring to her mother Barbara Boylan, affectionately known as BB. “She really loved hosting friends at their home in Asheville, gardening and dogs.” She was also an avid gift giver regardless of the holiday. BB enjoyed giving cards and providing emotional support to Katharine and even her friends, particularly when they were too scared to talk to their own parents.
And then there was Robin and BB, the purest definition of soul mates. There’s a million things that could be said about their love story between Katharine’s parents, but it boils down to this. They loved all the same things —entertaining, dancing the night away, but most importantly, their family.
Speaking of family, they began to notice some subtle differences in BB that stood in stark contrast to who they always knew her to be. It began with her overall appearance. She wasn’t taking care of herself, forgetting her hair and doctor appointments. She would wear shorts outside during the coldest winter days. But what really keyed in Katharine was when she got in the car with her mom to go out to lunch, and BB asked which way to go. Revealing her mom did not know how to get there. Subsequently, BB forgot how to get Robin’s car out of park one day, how to use her phone, stopped emailing and stopped answering the phone altogether. In fall of 2011, she was diagnosed with younger-onset Alzheimer’s disease.
In 2011 a tidal shift took hold of our BB. A disease became an ebbing tide, slowly taking my mother piece by piece out to sea. A sea that became so angry and violent there was no chance of rescue. There would be periods of slack tides, and even a glimpse of the water rising and toying with our hopes that she had returned. But each day it carried her farther and farther away with its relentless pull. This disease decimated her motor skills, erasing any memory of how to cut a rug to Van Morrison with my father. She could no longer drive to get her caramel macchiato, much less hold a caramel macchiato in her hand. Little bits and pieces of the intricacies that made her who she was slipped under the dark waters never to be seen again. All in seven years.an exerpt from katharine fuch’s blog, Southern bourbon mountains
“When she got the diagnosis that October, I was like ‘Alright – we have to get involved with the Alzheimer’s Association.’” Katharine, a senior software engineer for Wells Fargo, approached her mother’s diagnosis just like she handles any project management — she immediately went to work doing research and establishing connections.
As BB’s condition declined and Robin was still working while being her primary caregiver, the family needed a way for someone to take care of her, check in on her. Through the Alzheimer’s Association staff in Charlotte and Asheville, Robin and Katharine secured care partners, adult day care and ultimately a memory care facility for BB.
Becoming part of the solution
“I just missed the Charlotte Walk to End Alzheimer’s that year, so I signed up for the Blondes vs Brunettes flag football team.” Katharine and Robin were already aware of the Association prior to BB’s diagnosis, so when it became official they knew who to go to. “The services that the Association provides have a great way of connecting people who are looking for help with the help they need,” offers Katharine. “Our participation in the Walks also offered us the opportunity to visit information booths and provided us with great resources for at-home care.”
Because of what they received as a family, they dove in head first across North Carolina to support the mission of the Alzheimer’s Association.
Robin’s passion for the cause raised record totals in the fight against Alzheimer’s and his personal team, BB’s Buddies collectively raised $140,000 over his years of involvement with Walk to End Alzheimer’s – Asheville. Additionally, he served on Western Carolina Chapter of the Alzheimer’s Association Board of Directors from 2017 until his passing in 2021.
“I really saw the toll it [caring for my mom] took on my Dad both mentally and physically. It broke him. There are probably pieces of me, too, that I’ll never get back,” asserts Katharine. When BB passed away in 2018 Katharine said that her father was never the same again. He was definitely not the same dad as she had when she was a little girl. In 2021 he wasn’t taking care of himself and ended up with an infection. “After two weeks in the hospital, he gave up,” offered Katharine, “I think he just wanted to be with her again. I believe 100% that dad would be here today if mom had not passed away from Alzheimer’s.”
Katharine, too, channeled her passion for her mom through her involvement with the Association. Katharine’s walk team, Krewe BB, collectively raised $57,000 over her years of participation in Walk to End Alzheimer’s – Charlotte. Katharine has additionally served as an Alzheimer’s Congressional Team member for District 9, participated in numerous interviews about her family’s journey and the Alzheimer’s Association, and played an active role on the volunteer team that worked on the inaugural year the Alzheimer’s Association was selected as the beneficiary of The Queen’s Cup Steeplechase.
During her mother’s journey with Alzheimer’s disease, Katharine used her blog Southern Bourbon Mountains to share her story and experiences – reaching audiences far beyond her friend and work groups – about the disease and passion to #ENDALZ. “ I feel like we are not one of the popular causes, and there are not a lot of people in their 30s and 40s who are not gung-ho about Alzheimer’s because they think it’s the grandparent disease,” adds Katharine. “But it was my parents – my mom died in her 60s and my dad died in his 70s.” Katharine firmly believes that if there’s a disease with no cure, she’s going to do everything that she can, not just in her mother’s memory but for herself as mom. She doesn’t want her kids to ever experience what she has.
A worthy honor
Celebrated annually at the Charlotte Memory Gala, the Alzheimer’s Association Award of Excellence recognizes individuals, families, or companies for their work in our community and their ongoing support of those impacted by Alzheimer’s in North Carolina and beyond. Not surprisingly, the Boylan/Fuchs family will be honored at this year’s event on May 20. The dance floor of the Memory Gala was christened by Katharine and Robin each year, making this honor even more fitting.
“We are looking forward to this year’s event,” shares Katharine. This year will undoubtedly feel different without her father alongside her on the dance floor. But Katharine adds that as a working mom, she cherishes an opportunity to get dolled up, but even more so when it means she’ll be surrounded by people who understand what she’s been through and is still going through. And so, in honor of all she those she loves, all those she’s lost and all those she fights for, she’ll keep on dancing.
Join Katharine and other influential community and business leaders and enjoy a wonderful event to celebrate the lives of loved ones impacted by dementia and raise funds to underwrite the Alzheimer’s Association’s support, education, advocacy and research initiatives.
You will enjoy an elegant, black-tie optional evening at uptown’s The Westin Charlotte that features a welcome reception, seated dinner, powerful mission moments, auction, as well as, dancing and live entertainment provided by the Kingdaddy Band.
CHARLOTTE MEMORY GALA
Saturday, May 20, 2023
The Westin Charlotte
Visit CharlotteMemoryGala.org to reserve your spot.
Forget Me Not Tables:
$2,750 on/after 3/1/23
$350 per person on/after 3/1/23
For more information on event sponsorship, tables and tickets, contact:
Sally Kay, Gala Director | firstname.lastname@example.org | (980) 498-7733
We invite you to join our Charlotte Memory Gala Facebook Group to stay informed on updates and plans for the event.