A little over 24 years ago, the state decided to close the mobile home park where Alice lived. She had to move two miles south to another park. Over the next three years she became friends with her next door neighbor, Wendell. He was almost 18 years her senior. He had served after WWII, and was considered a veteran because he provided relief for those who had been on duty in the war for so long. In the third summer of their friendship, they started to cruise the boulevard in their town, sometimes taking his grandson with them and getting ice cream.
That fall, in August of 1994, Alice traveled to California for a nephew’s wedding. She was gone eight days, and when she returned something had begun. She and Wendell were married September 2, of 1994. Over the years he worked heavy construction, real estate, and a variety of other jobs. She worked a few different positions, too, most recently working for her local school district in speech pathology. They enjoyed traveling to Las Vegas, Ogden Valley, and Bear Lake when they could get out.
About six years ago, Alice noticed Wendell’s health starting to decline. He had begun having problems with his kidneys and his lungs. He had smoked when he was younger, and the construction work had probably also impacted his health. Over time, he could not travel anymore and was eventually homebound. She decided to retire. When she retired from full time work, a local charter school asked her to work part time since her license had not expired. She did, but as she was home more she noticed more of Wendell’s decline. After a couple of years, she quit at the charter school and allowed her license to lapse.
Although Wendell could have gone to a Veterans Home, Alice felt that he was more comfortable at home. She knew he didn’t really want to go to a facility. “All along our relationship had been really good, so I didn’t mind caring for him.”
Watching him decline was the hardest thing about the whole process. She coped by reading, visiting her local quilt shop, and quilting. Last year, Wendell’s youngest daughter visited, and threw a little birthday party for Alice.
As his mobility declined, Alice figured out that if she would pull the car around to the front of the house, she could get him out the front door and into the car to go to the doctor.
Toward the end, Willard had problems with incontinence. He did not like having to be in a diaper, but it had to be done. Things got harder and harder, and Alice began trying to get help from a hospice company. One day she was getting her hair cut by the wife of her cousin. She told her hairdresser about what a hard time she was having getting a hospice company to come out. As Alice talked, her cousin walked in and mentioned that he worked for a hospice company and said, “You ought to try to get with our company.” After a few more days she called her cousin’s company, and they came out the next day.
“I’m glad I was able to do it. He never did get angry or resentful, but toward the end I could really tell that he was ready to be gone. Some of the things I could have done I just let go because I knew he was ready. That’s a hard thing to do, but I just knew he was done, and he was ready.”
Hospice helped for the last six weeks of Wendell’s life. His daughter and her husband came for the last week, and they helped make plans and prepare for his passing. He passed away about six months ago. Wendell was cremated, and they took his remains to Corinne to be buried next to the family plot.
When asked if Alice has any advice for people who go through what she went through, she recommended grief counseling sessions. The hospice company she used offered them, and she said they were very helpful. The company is preparing for a new group of sessions this month, and she might go through them one more time.
Though Willard is gone, Alice has a curio cabinet full of ring boxes he gave her, and a shelf of painted ceramic eagle statues he collected. They remind her of him—his patriotism, and his love for her.
Alice, thank you for sharing your story. Thank you for caring for your husband. I honor you and your work.