By the time I met Judy Roe, it was already too late.
I met her at a dinner table at Pathstone Living, an assisted-living and nursing home facility near Sibley Park in Mankato. I’d been invited by her husband, Jim Roe. I’d been interviewing Roe for a lengthy feature story about his life and the disease that had come to figure so prominently in their marriage: Lewy body dementia. But by the time I came into her life, she’d already progressed to a point where she was unlikely to remember me or our meeting.
Readers of The Free Press might remember her story. After all, Judy Roe had the kind of story that isn’t easily forgotten. Why? Her disease was characterized by the kind of hallucinations that might make you wonder if instead she was experimenting with recreational drugs.
She’d see rhinos walking down the street, or a band playing in her living room. One minute she’d be fine, the next she see a room full of people and wonder aloud how she was going to manage to feed them all. It’s the kind of thing you might laugh about. But there was nothing funny about the toll Lewy body dementia took on Judy and her husband, Jim.
When I opened my paper Monday and turned to page B2, I saw the face I’d sort of been expecting to see for a while but was hoping I wouldn’t. Judy Roe died over the weekend. And all I could think about was Jim.
When you do the kind of long-form, narrative feature story that I did on Jim and Judy, you get to know a guy pretty well. I sat with Jim for many hours, painstakingly going over every bit of the journey he’d been on as he cared for a spouse with such a demanding, infuriating disease. And what I learned about Jim is this: Judy — who grew up in my childhood neighborhood and went to my high school, St. Paul Johnson — was one lucky woman.