Remembering the Sheffield dad who died from Alzheimer's, aged just 43
Noel Gregory was just 43-years-old when he passed away from Alzheimer’s disease.
A dedicated family man from Sheffield, he first began experiencing symptoms when he was 37. After a prolonged period of tests, Noel and his family received the life changing diagnosis that he was living with Alzheimer’s disease. The news impacted hugely on devoted wife Judith and young daughter Sian, who was then aged just seven.
Despite her young age, Sian assumed the role of young carer, helping to care for her dad alongside Judith. Noel lived with dementia for seven years, before passing away when Sian was only 13 years old.
Since his death, Sian and Judith have committed themselves to raising awareness of dementia and fundraising in Noel’s memory, and are determined to help find a cure. They have spent the past 18 years working together for the Alzheimer’s Society, and over 10 more volunteering.
Sian explains: “My dad Noel was really special; a family man, he was so outgoing and could chat to anyone. I remember him always having a massive grin that could light up any room he walked in. He was kind, with a real sense of humour, and had a huge passion for music and motorbikes.
“His diagnosis shook our family, especially with him being so young. Alongside my mum, I helped care for him as we were still a very tight family unit of three.
“I really remember struggling to understand what was happening at first, especially because at the time I only knew of other kids my age having grandparents with dementia, not a parent.”
Since 2003, both mum and daughter have taken part in Alzheimer’s Society’s Memory Walk most years, walking and volunteering at different events in memory of Noel. They’ve walked in all weathers, often wearing fancy dress, and have seen the events grow hugely in size.
This year, to mark the 15-year anniversary of Noel’s death, the dedicated pair have upped the stakes on their usual challenge and are instead courageously attempting, not one, but five memory walks across the North East, Yorkshire and Nottinghamshire.
The Leeds event took place on September 1, and Sian shared her story on the main stage to hundreds of walkers, to help get the event underway. And now, Sian and Judith are calling on the people of Yorkshire to unite against dementia with them, and sign-up for a Memory Walk themselves.
Sian adds: “Memory Walk has been a really special part of my life since my dad died. It’s always been a massive help to meet so many other people affected by dementia - to see everyone uniting against dementia is so inspiring, and there’s always such a hopeful and positive atmosphere. I’d really encourage anyone to sign-up to a Memory Walk, just for that feeling alone.”
In the 90 minutes it takes to complete an average Memory Walk, data has shown that an average of 30 people will develop dementia in the UK.
Judith says: “Memory Walk means a lot to me because I have seen it grow from much smaller beginnings into the amazing event it is today. I always get a lump in my throat when I see everyone coming together and see the names of all the people with dementia who are loved and celebrated.
“Dementia is now the UK’s biggest killer with someone developing it every three minutes - yet dementia research still trails far behind other health conditions, after decades of underfunding.
“Every penny raised through Memory Walk will help Alzheimer’s Society find a cure, improve care and support people affected by dementia. Please sign-up to your local Memory Walk. It’s a great event to do with family and friends, and you’ll also be funding vital research which will help to change lives.”
Sian and Judith are taking part in the Leeds, York, Humber Bridge, South Shields, and Clumber Park Memory Walks throughout September and October.
Visit memorywalk.org.uk for a full list of Memory Walks and for details on how to sign-up.