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1 year ago · · Comments Off on Love Truly Conquers All: Dennis and Barbara, A Love Story

Love Truly Conquers All: Dennis and Barbara, A Love Story

dennis and barabraAlthough many of us experience the tragedy of dementia, some beautiful love stories rise above all of the pain and suffering of this disease. Dennis and Barbara are just one of the most beautiful stories we have seen and experienced in a long time. 

Dennis and Barbara came to Tribute a little over a year ago after hospital stays and heartbreak. However, as we have gotten to know them, we learned how incredible their journey has been.

The couple met at a roller skating rink in 1957 in Chicago, Illinois. Barbara was 17 and still in high school; Dennis was 18, had graduated, and worked for Western Electric. They were instantly attracted to each other and spent many weekends rolling their way across the skating rink and getting to know one another.

At one of these encounters, Dennis was there with another girl, and he ended up driving both girls home. Barbara was so nervous to see which one he would drop off first. He took the other girl home first, and Barbara knew then that this was going someplace with Dennis. She thought he had it all together, and they fell in love. 

In March of 1958, Dennis joined the Navy and, after boot camp, spent six months in San Francisco, CA, for special training. Not long after, in 1959, he was called to go to the Aleutian Islands in Alaska. Dennis wanted to ask Barbara to marry him, but it was Christmas time, and he wanted it to be its own special time, so he waited until after the holidays. He set out to the then-uninhabited islands for his assignment. They wrote many letters where they could speak and plan their entire wedding on Ham radio and occasionally on a phone patch.

On February 27th, 1960, a cold, windy, snowy day, they married in Chicago and then traveled to Daytona Beach for their honeymoon. Since Dennis had not seen much sunlight in quite some time, it was not a pleasant trip, he recalls. He got sunburned and sick from all the sun, which put a bit of a damper on the honeymoon. 

After the honeymoon, they went to Washington, DC, for six months. In November of that same year, they moved to London, England, with the Navy. Barb was seven months pregnant with their first son Greg, who was born in 1961 in London. In March of 1961, the family moved to Spain and had many adventures. The first was driving from London to the Channel and driving their car onto the front of the plane while riding in the back to France. 

After arriving in France, they drove through the country to Southern Spain. Greg was only six weeks old, and it was a small car with all of their belongings in a tote. It was a rough drive, as they recall. They attended New Year’s Eve Mass at St. Peters in Rome with Pope John Paul and more! A year later, they returned to Chicago, and Dennis went to work manufacturing torpedoes for the Navy.

In early 1962 they moved to Des Plaines, Il., where they purchased their first house. Their second son Mark was born that September. Then, in 1967, their third child, a daughter, Julie, was born. The family moved to Dallas in 1970, where Dennis worked for a defense contract management agency as an Industrial Specialist, then as Director of Production, Deputy Commander in the Dallas office, and also at Texas Instruments.

Barbara stayed home and took care of the children until they were grown. Then she worked as a secretary and preschool teacher and later for a podiatrist. Their children recall what a devoted wife Barbara was in addition to being a super attentive, wonderful mother. Dennis coached soccer, baseball, basketball, and more. The kids recall that mom and dad always got along well, held hands, talked, and kissed when they were growing up. They even had nicknames, Dennis was Fen, and Barbara was Gilda. When asked why Dennis blushed a bit and then declined to give a solid answer!

In January 1991, Barbara and Dennis were sent to Ankara, Turkey, and he was assigned as the US Embassy Deputy Commander of DOD contract management for producing F16 aircrafts. He was also contracted in Egypt and Kuwait. They test-flew the F16, accepted them for the US, and gave them to the Turkish government. This was during the era of Desert Storm. 

They enjoyed extensive travel to the Middle East, Italy, Germany, Switzerland, and Israel. Barbara was in her element and found her niche. She loved shopping and entertaining dignitaries and other members of Dennis’s career. They loved Turkey and, even though they were only scheduled to be there for two years, decided to extend it to 4 years. They were having the time of their life! Even their sons came to visit and tour the country with them. They ate a lot of lamb there but said all of the food they had was great. He said after the war, it was like Paradise there in Turkey. Then in 1994, the couple returned to the US after many amazing adventures and moved to Plano, Texas, to retire.

In 2020 Barbara started experiencing forgetfulness. She and Dennis both went for brain scans, finding that Barbara had fluid on the brain on both sides. She was diagnosed with early-onset Alzheimer’s and also developed Graves Disease. Dennis got COVID-19, and they soon sold their two-story home and rented a one-story home in McKinney. Barbara’s Graves disease was severe. She had surgery on her eyes, of which 90% of people never have problems again. However, Barbara did. She has had 15 surgeries since 1998 for her eyes due to Graves. Then it began, she developed a UTI, was hospitalized, rehabbed, and it kept spiraling repeatedly. It became increasingly difficult for Dennis to care for Barbara in their home. After the last rehab stay, he found Tribute and brought Barbara to us. 

Dennis is very devoted to Barbara and spends most of every day with her at Tribute. They are still very in love, and he rarely leaves her side. We enjoy watching them interact with love and sincerity. Although Barbara cannot see much at this point and the Alzheimer’s has deteriorated much of her day-to-day personality, she still enjoys people, dancing with her husband, and visits from her children. Barbara has been a passionate woman of faith, loved and cared deeply for her family and friends, and is known for her sweet spirit, caring attitude, and fun personality.

They loved to dance and entertain. And even though Barbara can’t stand alone, Dennis can be seen at our music events holding her up and dancing with her, even today. She has lived a lifetime of adventures with her loving husband, Dennis, and we are proud and honored that they have chosen Tribute to help Dennis care for Barbara in this difficult season of their life. Theirs is truly a love story to remember!

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