July 3, 2018 | Mathew Burke

Wife Looks After Husband With Dementia, But No One Expected This

Love is the one pursuit that unites practically everyone—who doesn’t dream of the kind of true, unconditional, everlasting love that permeates the lore of every nearly culture that’s ever existed? Those who don’t have it wish for it, and those who have it hold onto it as their most precious possession, cherishing every moment they have with their loved one. Some people are lucky enough to meet the partner of their dreams at a very young age, just as Leonard and Hazel Cherry did. The story of these two goes back seventy years to their high school days, when fate brought them together from the adjacent towns they grew up in—and it quickly became obvious to everyone in their lives that they had just the kind of love we all dream of.

22. Where It Began

All of those who were around Leonard and Hazel in their youth attest that their relationship was clearly something special. It was no surprise when the couple decided to tie the knot and say their vows in 1942, promising to spend the rest of their lives together. Little did they know just how true that promise would become later in their lives…

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21. Inseparable

Leonard and Hazel were a special couple, and that was clear from the way they lived their lives and set their hopes and dreams—neither of them ever worried about individual achievement, it was always about the success of the two of them as a team. They never strayed from their commitment to a spirit of togetherness. They spent every moment they were able to in each other’s company and took nothing for granted, always prioritizing the growth of their relationship. They were well aware that life is short, and so they did everything they could to make the most of it.

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20. War

The only thing that prevented the pair from spending time together was when World War II forced them, like most of their peers, to put normal life on hold for a few years. When Leonard joined the Army Air Corps, they both realized that there was no telling if he would ever come back safely. Like so many in this generation, they chose to sacrifice and risk everything they had to defend their country—hoping with all their hearts that they would survive and that it would all be worth it in the end.

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19. In the Action

Leonard served as a bomber pilot, a very dangerous and risky position. His high skill level and strong communication ability got him recruited to also train other young pilots for their roles. He bravely and selflessly gave everything he could for the cause, while Hazel patiently awaited his return home and prepared for the future life together that they were really fighting for.

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18. Home Away from Home

While waiting and dreaming of the home he would one day build with Hazel, Leonard had to make his home in many air bases all over the world. After the war, Leonard would continue with his military career, being stationed by the United States Air Force at Carswell Army Air Corps Base in Fort Worth, Texas beginning in 1947. He spent his time there as an active B-24 Bomber Pilot, and the base has since become home to many Navy headquarters.

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17. Homecoming

Jubilation broke out for many service people in April 1945 when Nazi Germany was defeated, but for Leonard, there was still one more obstacle to overcome before he could return home—he was needed to help with the planned invasion of Japan. Luckily, this plan would never be necessary, as the war ended before his scheduled mission was to take place. This meant that at long last, Leonard was returning home.

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16. David

The Baby Boom began when the war ended, and the Cherry home was no exception. Feeling that the time was right to start a family, Hazel soon gave birth to a baby boy named David. The couple loved children and were looking for something to reinvigorate their relationship. David could not have entered their lives at a better time.

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15. Deep in the Heart of Texas

The family decided that Fort Worth, Texas was the place where they wanted to raise David and build their lives, so that’s exactly where they moved. The couple decided that they never again wanted to spend as much time apart as they had to during the war, so they decided they wanted to start a business together. Now the only question was just what should this business be…

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14. Cherry Hill

The army training had turned Leonard into a multi-skilled person, and this paid off when the couple attempted to start their new business. He wanted to work with his hands and put his years of machinery operating to good use, so they determined that their best bet was to open an auto repair shop, and they called it “Cherry Hill.” They had hoped that the business would be successful, and they were about to be pleasantly surprised—even beyond their wildest dreams…

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13. Making It

The couple did an excellent job of utilizing their talents and putting them together to make the business a great success. Leonard handled the physical work on the cars while Hazel managed the books and customer service. This system of teamwork went as smoothly as they could have hoped, and their establishment soon became a staple of the town. The business survived and thrived for decades and allowed the couple to support their family until they closed shop in 1980. That’s when something didn’t feel quite right…

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12. Woodway

Having closed the business they had worked on together for so long, the couple now felt like they needed a change of scenery. They packed up and moved to the quiet town of Woodway, Texas, where their son David had been living. By this time, David had a wife and children of his own. In this new setting and this new stage of life, Leonard and Hazel could devote themselves full time to their family like never before.

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11. Precious Memories

David and his family were impressed by just how preciously the patriarch and matriarch of their clan treated each other, and decided to follow their example and devote themselves as much as possible to spending quality family time together. In fact, hardly anyone around them was uninspired by witnessing their close and loving relationship, and the couple became very comfortable and satisfied with their new, quiet lives in this community.

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10. Keeping Busy

Just because they were retired doesn’t mean the couple sat around the house doing nothing all day—both spouses were actively involved in their community in various ways. Being a deeply religious man, Leonard chaired the Board of his Baptist church and taught Sunday school. He also enjoyed golfing and building furniture in his spare time.

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9. Peaceful

In an interview with People magazine, the couple’s son David has said of his parents that “They never really spent a day apart unless it was for a family emergency or something. And I never heard a cross word between them. I never heard them raise their voices to each other unless they were calling across the yard. They didn’t fight!” This couple truly must have been exceptional!

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8. Grandchildren

The couple had a great relationship with their grandchildren. Leonard diligently showed up at every basketball game, and even at most practices too! The loving grandparents never missed a chance to dote over their grandkids. To quote David’s interview with People, The kids just adored my parents, they had such a special relationship, they were so close and came to all of their school events.” But sadly, life has a way of getting difficult just when things seem to all be going right.

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7. Dementia

Tragically, Leonard was diagnosed with dementia and as one can expect, the family was absolutely devastated. This meant that serious memory loss was about to take place and life would sadly become much more difficult for this otherwise vibrant man and those closest to him. Continuing her consistent pattern of being a loving and devoted wife, Hazel was prepared to do whatever it would take to help her husband. Although this was probably the most difficult challenge they ever had to deal with, she was determined to make the best of a bad situation in any way she could.

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6. A Big Deal

Dementia is a very serious condition, and it affects about ten percent of people at some point in their lives. While this may not sound like a huge number, it amounts to about 46 million people globally, and it is not an easy thing to deal with. The memory loss that comes with the condition can be very extreme in many cases, and dealing with it can turn an entire family’s lives upside down. Understandably, it can be an exhausting and heartbreaking process for those affected by it. Patients often lose their independence and have to live with someone who can care for them and tend to all their needs, or somewhere that is very accessible to those with disabilities. As you can imagine, this is no small task to have to handle.

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5. Help Needed

Although Hazel was doing her best to give Leonard the care he needed, the task became extremely difficult and he ultimately had to move into a Waco-based care facility. Hazel was devastated by the thought of not seeing her husband every day under this new arrangement. She was determined to find a way to do just that.

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4. Daily Commitment

Hazel decided to involve herself very deeply in Leonard’s care, and visited him every single day. She joined him for every doctor’s appointment and asked as many questions as she could to fully understand the situation at hand. Although the situation was very dire, she wanted to live with her husband again and came up with a plan.

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3. New Neighbor

Hazel pulled some strings and managed to get herself a room in an independent living facility connected to where Leonard was staying. She was now able to stay with him at all times once again, and this made them feel like they were back together like before, at least to an extent. Hazel would regularly hold his hand and whisper words of encouragement in his ear throughout this time. Needless to say, this made the couple feel much better and gave them the chance to truly make the most of a bad situation.

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2. Shock

In a shocking and unforeseen turn of events, Hazel passed away at the age of 93 in October 2016. Despite having seemed to be in perfect health, she woke up tired one morning and unlike her normal self, did not want to get out of bed. While speaking with one of her granddaughters, a smile came over her face and the next thing they knew, she was suddenly gone.

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1. Together Again

Although Leonard was not told of his wife’s passing, his caretaker has vividly described that he had been restless and upset before suddenly becoming calm and taking the breath that would become his last. The family believes that he somehow sensed what had happened and wanted to be with his beloved wherever she was heading next. These two refused to be apart, throughout their lives and in death, and the true love they shared for so many years will remain an inspiration forever.

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