A paintbrush tells the story when words are absent, especially in the case where your loved one has a disease that erases more and more of their life memories over time.
“They can no longer communicate verbally with you, so you feel like you’ve lost them,” Beth Bowlen Wallace told 9NEWS.
Pat Bowlen – the majority owner of the Denver Broncos – is Beth’s father.
“People know him as Pat Bowlen,” Beth said. “I know him as Dad.”
Beth said her dad had always been healthy and took such great care of himself. However, the news was released on July 23, 2014 – Pat Bowlen was suffering from Alzheimer’s.
“I’ve very proud of how he is handling this diagnosis with Alzheimer’s,” Beth said.
When remembering a Drew Litton cartoon showing Mr. Bowlen in front of an easel painting the Broncos team logo, a tear rolled down Beth’s face.
“It just shows what was inside of him and expressing what was his passion in his life – this football team,” Beth said. “It’s hard for me. It is really meaningful.”
But his passion for the team could not overcome his diagnosis. Mr. Bowlen stepped down from his duties with the team, but the Broncos have competed for him. The community has also shown such caring towards him. But the questions come every day.
“When someone asks you ‘How is your father doing?’ it is difficult because I can’t come up with a real positive response other than he is transitioning through the disease,” Beth said. “We find wonderful silver linings in the times that we spend together, but Alzheimer’s progresses.”
Beth didn’t stand idly by after his diagnosis. She is working closely with the Alzheimer’s Association. She and her family led the way at the Walk to End Alzheimer’s at Denver’s City Park
The crowd of people reflected the true reach of the disease. The Alzheimer’s Association in Colorado says more than 60,000 people are living with Alzheimer’s in Colorado. More than 230,000 people in Colorado provide for their care.
“My story is their story, and their story is my story,” Beth said. “There is solidarity in something that we all unfortunately share in common now, but we can come together and support each other.”
She is advocating for Alzheimer’s awareness, support for caregivers and more money for research.
The day after Mr. Bowlen’s announcement, a family called the hotline to say their dad had shared his diagnosis only because he heard the owner of the Broncos had it. He said if Bowlen could talk about it, he could too. That’s when Beth realized she needed to be active in the Alzheimer’s Association.
“I’ll never forget when I heard that,” Beth said. “It was the first time that I could get out of my grief, even when it was so poignant, and realize we can make a difference here.”
She’s also the event chair of the Memories in the Making Art Auction on Saturday, June 13, at the new Broncos’ field house at Dove Valley. This event is very close to her heart since it gives people with Alzheimer’s the opportunity to paint. Often, they can paint a memory when they can no longer find the words to describe it. She says it is fitting that the auction is the first public event at the new Broncos’ facility.
“This is such a rewarding experience for the artist to say ‘I have a voice, and I still want to tell my story,'” Beth said.
So many people talk about Pat Bowlen’s legacy, but it is usually related to his work in the National Football League. He has owned the Broncos for 21 years and was at the helm for two Super Bowl wins. His daughter says, now, his legacy is much better and more significant.
“There has to be something positive that can come out of it, and if that is helping getting the message out about Alzheimer’s and the awareness and removing the stigma and helping develop a cure, that is a far greater reaching feat that anything my father has probably done,” Beth said.
Beth says she will continue to share her father’s story when his words are no longer there.
“It is a responsibility to speak up and offer support and do whatever we can to see an end to Alzheimer’s,” Beth said.
She says her work with this group give her a purpose during this heartbreaking journey.
“When you have a purpose, there is a way to move forward,” Beth said.