A walk to remember|Children recall father’s fight against disease

Published 10:55 pm Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Community Editor

Its been over two years since Onward Jackson died after a courageous battle with Alzheimer’s disease. In that time, his children, Johnnie and Marianna, have done their best to honor him by making T-shirts in remembrance of him and donning them for each annual Memory Walk.
This year was no exception.
The Jackson siblings were joined by several friends and hundreds of others affected by the disease in making the 1.6-mile Memory Walk on Saturday morning.
The walk, held by the Eastern North Carolina Chapter of the Alzheimer’s Association, started at the Redmen’s Lodge on East Third Street at 10 a.m.
Before the walk, in its fourth year, co-founder Emily Albera gave a brief, heartwarming speech thanking everyone involved. Albera, whose mother battled Alzheimer’s for 18 years before dying in 2005, said, “It’s no longer about my mother. It’s about all of you people that have been affected.”
Albera’s mother’s lengthy struggle with the debilitating disease inspired Albera and her mother’s daytime caretaker, Isabel Wilder, to start the charity walk.
Wilder, a caretaker with Maxim Healthcare, said Albera’s mother, Emily, made significant strides in recovering her memory and basic skills.
“I couldn’t believe how she turned everything around,” Wilder said.
When Wilder took over the daytime care of the elder Albera, she said, the Alzheimer’s-stricken woman “didn’t know anything.”
After the elder Albera died, Wilder decided to begin an annual Memory Walk, and she got the younger Albera involved.
“I tried hard to get it going and let people know about this disease,” Wilder said.
Wilder’s mother-in-law also died from the disease, and her father-in-law is battling it.
Speaking from personal experience, she said, “Some (with Alzheimer’s) need help. A lot of them have family members that are not informed.”
And therein lies the purpose of the walk, Wilder said.
An annual Memory Walk allows people to share their stories and take advice from the experts in the field.
Before the walk Saturday morning, Dr. Muhammad Usman Saeed, a clinical assistant professor with the Department of Psychiatric Medicine at East Carolina University, gave an informational, 10-minute speech about the disease and what is being done to combat and prevent it. Beaufort County Sheriff Alan Jordan followed up Saeed’s speech with some details about a wrist-tracker recommended for individuals stricken with Alzheimer’s or dementia.
“Please tell your loved ones they don’t have to suffer in silence,” he said.
For more information about the wrist-tracker device, contact the Beaufort County Sheriff’s Office at 252-946-7111.