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March 8, 2024

HERstory: Honoring the Journey of Individuals Living with Dementia

Category: Memory Care

Author: Brianna Wilson, Memory Care Director

Women’s History Month

HERstory serves as a tribute to the unique journey, experiences, and contributions of an individual living with dementia. Each HERstory carries a rich past of memories, relationships, and accomplishments that define their identity. As dementia progresses, memories begin to fade. Preserving and sharing these narratives become invaluable in honoring the person affected and maintaining their dignity. At Cedar Trails Senior Living, we believe in acknowledging and celebrating each individual’s life story. Through this approach, we affirm the inherent worth and complexity of those living with dementia. It allows us to transcend the limitations imposed by their condition.

Through storytelling, we bridge the gap between the past and the present. This fosters meaningful interactions and cultivates a sense of belonging for individuals living with dementia. By embracing their narratives with empathy and compassion, we counteract stigma, dispel misconceptions, and promote a culture of inclusivity and respect for individuals affected by dementia.

Below is a HERstory about one of the residents living in our Memory Care Neighborhood.

Julia “Betty” V. was born on a spring morning in 1929 in Florissant, MO, the ninth of 13 children. When she was five years old, and the depression was bearing down, the family moved to a farm owned by an aunt in Jones Ridge, IL. Somewhere along the way, Julia became known as “Betty.”

In 1938, Betty was walking home from the one-room school across a field when her legs stopped working. She had polio. Betty was treated over many months in Springfield, IL, using float therapy. She remembers being homesick and, upon finally returning home, feeling strange that her siblings couldn’t play or visit, having to keep their distance at first.

Betty remembers enjoying the excitement of high school in the town of Gorham with kids from all around. She attended the Gorham High School 2023 Reunion and reconnected with two former classmates. They had a grand time reminiscing!

A young photo of Julia with a bright smile, red lipstick, and a green blouse exudes confidence and elegance, capturing her timeless charm and vibrant spirit.

The country girl went to Webster College and thrilled many city college girlfriends with a trip to the country. It took Betty less than a year to discover working in an office was not for her! She returned to college at SIU-Carbondale and completed a degree in elementary education. Betty taught at a one-room school in the Waterloo area, Vogel School while getting her degree. Two years at St. Libory School and four years in Albers, IL, followed.

She taught for 30 years at Henry Raab School in Belleville, IL. She was known again as Julia among her peers in the school environment. Many of her former students remember her fondly and approach this little lady in social settings.

Career and Love: Julia “Betty’s” Journey

During her early teaching days, Julia was pursued heavily by a couple of avid beaus, with the handsome Fayetteville farmer Arkell winning her heart. They were married in 1956 and soon settled on the third-generation farmstead they named Echo Breeze Farm. The family attended St. Pancratius Church. Arkell and Betty had four children over the next 13 years. She now has 12 grandchildren and 11 great-grandchildren.

Arkell and Betty had a wide circle of friends who enjoyed home parties, euchre, family trips, and croquet on their big front lawn.

With 11 siblings and their families, there was never a lack of someone with whom to play cards, visit, or celebrate any event. Most gatherings included homemade ice cream.

After retirement, Betty kept busy as a grandma, a CASA volunteer, an active member of the Belleville Diocesan Council of Catholic Women and Farm Bureau, and a substitute teacher when she had a free day. She values staying active and has always made exercise a habit. Betty can still recite poems and sing the songs she learned when she was young.

A recent photo of Julia at the Cedar Trails Community, sitting down to dine in her purple blouse with detailed flowers, radiates grace and warmth.

Sharing the life story of someone living with dementia is not just an act of preserving memories; it’s an embodiment of compassion, understanding, and respect. By embracing their past, we honor their journey and provide valuable insights into who they are beyond the constraints of their condition through HERstory. 

Cedar Trails Senior Living in Freeburg, IL offers independent senior apartments, assisted living, and memory care with a variety of services and a range of floor plan options. Amenities include restaurant dining, 24-hour bistro, concierge service, housekeeping, events and entertainment, personal care, transportation services, and more. Centrally located near St. Elizabeth’s Hospital with convenient access to major shopping centers, including The Orchards Golf Club, Target, Eckerts Belleville Farm, Braeutigam Orchards, and the Belle Clair fairgrounds & Expo Center.

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