There’s a memory book lying open on the coffee table in Ron Nicholls’ room at Wentworth Manor, the long-term care facility where he has lived since the summer of 2017. Its pages are full of pictures, ticket stubs, invitations and handwritten notes, chronicling a life full of travel, career successes and family — his life. Ron’s wife of 40 years, Jeanette, made the book. She says it’s too hard to fit everything into it, but it’s a start.
Ron has certainly lived a life worth chronicling. He grew up in England where, amid the very tumultuous backdrop of the Second World War, he discovered a love for oil painting and other artistic endeavours. Later, when his family relocated to Canada, Ron — who had no schooling past the age of 16 — got certified as a surveyor, then as a draftsman and, eventually, he and a colleague founded an architectural practice in Calgary.
That firm, known today as GEC Architecture, oversaw the construction of some of the city’s most iconic buildings, including the Saddledome and the Olympic Oval. Add to that an active career in Alberta politics, a strong presence on numerous university boards (where he met Jeanette), and a hobby for completely renovating and flipping homes, and you’ll get a picture of Ron’s work ethic and drive.
Now 87, Ron was diagnosed with early cognitive impairment in 2007 and, in 2011, he was told he had Alzheimer’s Disease.
That news was a huge adjustment for Jeanette and Ron, but, as is customary in their relationship, they’ve faced their newest challenge head-on.
Often, during Jeanette’s daily visits to see Ron, they will go over their memory book, discussing bits that trigger a memory in him.
“For 38 years, I lived with the most preciously creative, delightful loving man. I still go every day to visit him. People sometimes ask me, ‘Why do you go every day?’ Well, because I want to. I love Ron. It’s as simple as that.” [ ]
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