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National Centenarian Awareness Project - July 2009 Calendar

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Will & Lois Clark
An Extraordinary and Exemplary Couple

     We’re catching up with the Clarks, one year later. Featured last July, Will and Lois Clark celebrated their 75th wedding anniversary a few months ago, but, as they discovered, it was not without its challenges.
    A “freak accident,” as Dr. Clark described it, threatened to scuttle this long awaited event. They had already celebrated their 104th and 101st birthdays, respectively, but to this devoted couple their milestone anniversary had even greater significance.
    Through a combination of courage, persistence and determination to do what was right for them, seek appropriate help as needed, and with the assistance and support of their devoted family, Will and Lois did achieve their goal.

 Click "Play" to begin slide show.

The Story Begins
Will, a dentist, and Lois, a dental hygienist fresh out of college, met when she began working for one of the dentists in a group practice Will had started in Iowa. “I knew the first time I saw her,” Will recalls, “that she was the one for me – not as a dental assistant, but as a life partner.”  Lois adds, “For me the choice was simple; he was the only one not married,” she says with a mischievous twinkle in her eye, then reaching over to pat her husband’s knee.  “We were an unlikely couple. Will loves sports and the outdoors – hiking, bicycling, horseback riding, golf – you name, he excelled at it. I prefer to stay indoors and avoid exertion of any kind – I particularly dislike physical exercise and not even Will could get me to do it in all these years.  On our first date, he took me out in a rowboat on the lake in our town. After about 10 minutes, I asked him to take me back to shore.  I then proceeded to the trolley to go home, despite Will’s suggestion that it wasn’t that far and we could walk.  He came along on the trolley nevertheless, and it’s been like that ever since. He goes out and does his thing, and I wait contentedly at home.” 
      They married, and Will soon discovered that Lois was a frugal homemaker. “I am cheap,” Lois interjects cheerfully.  “If I can pinch a penny, I will.”  Adds Will: “I got lucky. I used to have to buy her things she wouldn’t buy for herself, and she never demanded anything.”  Lois has the last word: “We couldn’t be living as well as we are today if we hadn’t been frugal. It all paid off in the end.”  That’s sound advice in these financially challenging times.
      Will celebrated his 38th birthday at home with his wife and three young children, and then came an unwelcome greeting.  “On this, the very last day that I was eligible, I was drafted,” Will says.  He spent three years in the Pacific while Lois reared the children and kept things going smoothly at home.  “But it wasn’t easy,” she admits.  “Letters could take weeks or months, and I never knew if he was dead or alive.” But Will was not going to let a little thing like WWII come between him and his family, and he survived despite injuries.  Will is a very determined, disciplined man. 
      “After the war we picked up where we had left off and lived the typical American lifestyle; in our later years we traveled as often as possible – we love to travel.”  Also like many of their generation, they began to spend the winter months in a warmer climate and eventually moved to make it their permanent home.  But they were equally at home in an RV or later a van, and would “take off on a moment’s notice,” Lois says.  “We would be having breakfast and talking about something, such as Mt. Rushmore, and look across the table at each other and the next thing we knew we were quickly packing and off we went!” At 104 Will is still driving his van, “even in Los Angeles on the freeways,” he reports, on trips to visit his son. 

The "Freak Accident"
Will and Lois lived independently in their own apartment, and liked it that way. Then late last summer, Lois slipped getting out of bed in the morning and fell between the bed and the night table. Will describes: “Her leg was caught beneath her, and she was in a great deal of pain. I called the manager’s office for help to lift her up, which was all she needed at that point, but he refused and called 911 instead.  Frustrated and unable to bear seeing his beloved wife in so much distress, Will attempted to pick her up himself, and in the process herniated a disc in his back. Now they were both in tremendous pain when the emergency crew arrived. Will refused any care, insisting that they focus on Lois, who was taken to the hospital and required surgery and physical therapy. Their children immediately began taking “shifts” – a week at a time – to be with them. Eventually, Will underwent surgery also. “I was in excruciating pain,” he confides, “but I wanted to be sure Lois was getting all the care and attention she needed. That’s what was most important to me.” 
       They both came through their surgeries with “flying colors,” but were told by their doctors that they would never be able to live independently again. Will dug in his heels, so to speak, and flatly refused to even consider another alternative, despite the best efforts of his kids to find a suitable alternative.  “For one thing, Will said, “we needed a place where we could have our king-sized bed and our belongings. We had brought them with us, things we’ve had all our married life, and some family heirlooms we weren’t going to give them up.”
       And then there was the anniversary.  Will had wanted a large celebration, but reset his sights on just having Lois released from rehab and home by November. They both worked hard at it – and Lois, with Will’s constant urging and encouragement, reluctantly began physical therapy.  And so exercise, which she had successfully avoided, became the linchpin to their plan. “And Lois did it!” Will says proudly.  She didn’t want to, but she knew she had to if we were ever to be together again. I couldn’t stand living apart from her – I just won’t do it.” 

All is Well
Their story has a happy ending. They “sprung” Lois just in time to celebrate their anniversary with their family and made a deal with their son: they would consider looking for another apartment, after New Year’s.  Fortunately, their doctor recommended a wonderful retirement community with private apartments and yet hotel-like amenities.  “It’s not a ‘facility’” Will says.  In fact, it’s more like a five-star hotel with a fitness center – which they both use now – restaurants and a computer lab.  Will immediately signed up for a brain fitness course.  “It was grueling. I had to go at a specified time every day, and we’re not used to that.” But of course, he completed the course, again “with flying colors.”
      They have a lovely two bedroom apartment that accommodates their king-size bed, a good size kitchen, a den for Will – who is active on his computer – and most importantly a separate guest suite.
      “We love having the kids here,” Lois says.  Terry, their oldest child, adds that he and his wife spend more time with his parents than they do at home in California!”  “This is a great place for them,” he adds.  It’s a perfect, working out for a very special couple.  They are happy, healthy once again and Will is still driving.  “While Dad was recuperating from surgery, I suggested that we trade vehicles, and he was driving my Camry,” Terry tells.  “One day I got a call from him saying, ‘I want my van back.’”  Will and Lois wanted to take to the road again, albeit on shorter, local jaunts. 



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