Chick Stewart and his daughters Colleen Pollon (centre) and Suzanne Dahl will help celebrate the life of Marilyn Stewart at the Alzheimer Walk on May 1. Marilyn designed Surrey's Czorny Alzheimer Centre

Making memories matter

Alzheimer Society to honour Czorny Centre founder Marilyn Stewart at May 1 Alzheimer Walk.

Colleen Pollon and Suzanne Dahl remember how their grandparents Mike and Nancy Czorny always liked to work the family garden.

Mike always wore a pressed white shirt – even when puttering around outside.

Nancy “made the best perogies,” recalls Pollon, while her older sister remembers having chicken noodle soup with Cheezies in it on weekends when the girls visited their grandparents in Chilliwack and Fort Langley in the 1960s.

Gradually, the Czorny family’s narrative turned to memory loss, as Mike’s behaviour began to change as the girls grew up – though for a time, they were too young to notice.

Their father and Mike’s son-in-law Donald “Chick” Stewart became convinced something was wrong as he and Mike returned to the Fraser Valley after a fishing trip.

Mike kept telling the same story over and over in the pick-up truck, says Chick, now 88 and still known primarily by his schoolyard nickname.

Over time, as Mike’s condition worsened, he was went missing repeatedly, and ended up forcibly confined and sedated for a then little-know disease: Alzheimer’s.

Photo: A family photo of Nancy and Mike Czorny.

Mike Czorny had the disease for 25 years until he died in 1985. His wife passed away in 1999.

It was his daughter, Marilyn Stewart, who took up the fight to provide better care – including love, dignity and respect – for those suffering with Alzheimer’s disease.

“In those days, people with any form of dementia were often committed to psychiatric wards and were heavily sedated,” says Alzheimer Society advocate George Garrett, whose wife has Alzheimer’s. “Marilyn wanted Alzheimer patients to have dignity and as pleasant a life as possible in their final years.”

In 2007, 22 years after her father died, her vision came true.

The family opened the Czorny Alzheimer Centre in Cloverdale across the road from the Northview Golf Club, where Chick, a successful sawmill operator and land owner, is part-owner.

Home to 72 residents, Czorny features a one-level, multi-cottage design with outdoor gardens ringed with benches and flowers, with circular pathways so no one gets lost.

Inside are communal kitchens and living rooms, recreation halls, a hair salon, spa, an old-school coffee bar, post office and a Ford Model T in a side room.

Each resident has a memory box by their door with personal photos and mementos.

Meals are home-cooked and tailored to the needs of residents, who are tended to by more than 40 caregivers who offer occupational therapy, recreation, physiotherapy and other services.

Among the residents are two rabbits, Hopper and Spice.

Czorny is run by Fraser Health, but continues to have that special touch that Marilyn Stewart gave the facility.

Don Hickling, vice-president of leadership giving at the Jim Pattison Outpatient Care and Surgery Centre, calls Czorny “the largest gift to Alzheimer care in Canada,” and adds that although it is run by Fraser Health, it would never have been designed the way it is by ordinary bureaucrats.

Residents aren’t admitted, says clinical manager Louise Brown. They move in.

Photo: Marilyn Stwart

“Our parents became isolated from everyone but family,” Marilyn told The Leader when Czorny Alzheimer Centre opened in 2007. “We found it difficult to find a place for people with Alzheimer’s.”

Marilyn Stewart died in October 2014, but her contributions to those living with the disease will be honoured May 1 at the Investors Group Walk for Alzheimer’s: Make Memories Matter (formerly Walk for Memories), which takes place at Eaglequest Golf Coyote Creek, 7778 152 St.

“This is our one chance to honour her,” says Avalon Tournier, support and education coordinator at the Alzheimer Society of B.C.

Registration gets underway at 11:30 a.m., and individual and team walkers are welcome.

Funds raised through collected pledges support programs for people living with dementia and their families, as well as raise public awareness and education efforts.

Volunteers are also needed for the event; anyone interested can contact event chair Sue Lahti at 778-242-0751 or suelahti@shaw.ca

Alzheimer facts:

• Alzheimer’s disease is a progressive and degenerative brain illness, which causes thinking and memory to become seriously impaired.

• As the disease advances and affects different areas of the brain, various abilities become impaired resulting in changes to abilities and/or behaviour.

• Warning signs include memory loss affecting day-to-day abilities, difficulty in performing familiar tasks, problems with language, disorientation in time and space, impaired judgment, misplacing things and changes in mood and personality.

• The average lifespan for people diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease is eight to 14 years.

• 70,000 people in B.C. are affected by Alzheimer’s disease or related dementia. About 10,000 of those are under the age of 65.

• Fear and stigma continue to be huge barriers to seeking help.

• People with dementia can live meaningful and productive lives with early diagnosis.

• Early diagnosis is critical in getting proper medication, education, taking advantage of available support and resources, focusing on life’s priorities and helping to reduce stigma.

 

—Source: Alzheimer Society of B.C.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

The number of new COVID-19 cases has risen sharply in Vancouver and the Fraser North region over the last week.
Chart: Tyler Olsen
CHARTS: Weekly COVID-19 case double in Fraser North health area, up 50% in Vancouver

The number of new COVID-19 cases has risen sharply in Vancouver and the Fraser North region.

BC Hockey League commissioner Chris Hebb says the league is still on track to begin regular-season play in early December. (BCHL photo)
BCHL still on track to begin regular season in December

Commish hopeful that league can “slide right into the regular season” after successful preseason

(Delta Police Department photo)
No offence in second incident involving a teen girl being approached in Tsawwassen: police

Police still investigating incident on Oct. 15 where teen girl was approached by older man in a burgundy car

Kristjon Olson in a photo released by Surrey RCMP.
High-risk offender back in custody facing child-porn charges, Surrey Mounties say

News of Kristjon Otto Olson’s arrest is posted to Surrey RCMP’s website

tease photo
Food truck desserts from Prague ‘pop up’ at Surrey shopping mall

The Praguery offers a modern take on a traditional pastry

Physical distancing signs are a common sight in B.C. stores and businesses. THE CANADIAN PRESS
272 more COVID-19 cases for B.C., outbreak at oil sands project

Three new health care outbreaks, three declared over

This house at 414 Royal Ave. became notorious for its residents’ and visitors’ penchant for attracting police. It was also the site of a gruesome torture in August 2018. It was demolished in 2019. KTW
6-year sentence for Kamloops man who helped carve ‘rat’ into flesh of fellow gang member

Ricky Dennis was one of three men involved in the August 2018 attack

Among the pumpkin carvings created this year by Rick Chong of Abbotsford is this tribute to fallen officer Cont. Allan Young.
Abbotsford pumpkin carver’s creations include fallen police officer

Rick Chong carves and displays 30 pumpkins every year

An online fundraising campaign in support of the six-year-old boy, Edgar Colby, who was hit by a car on Range Road Oct. 25 has raised more than $62,000 in a day. (Submitted)
$62K raised in 1 day for boy in coma at BC Children’s after being hit by vehicle in Yukon

The boy’s aunt says the family is “very grateful” for the support they’ve received from the community

Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good

Pay it Forward program supports local businesses in their community giving

The Excelsior 4 are set to make their second court appearance in Abbotsford on Monday (Nov. 2). (Ben Lypka/Abbotsford News)
‘Excelsior 4’: Animal activists set to enter not guilty plea in Abbotsford hog farm case

Animal rights activists expected to plead not guilty to charges, protest for Vancouver scheduled

Dennis Cholowski shows off a Jordan 2 Retro Just Don Blue sneaker, the type of shoe only a true sneakerhead would appreciate. (Facebook photo)
VIDEO: Chilliwack Chiefs alum Dennis Cholowski shows off ‘sneakerhead’ collection

The Detroit Red Wing has been spending his NHL paycheques building up an impressive closet of shoes

Health care employees take extensive precautions when working with people infected or suspected of having COVID-19. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chris Young
WorkSafeBC disallows majority of COVID-19 job injury claims

Health care, social services employees filing the most claims

Most Read