Forced apart by dementia: A love story for the ages

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Six decades of marriage on and despite being forced to live apart, the pair remains inseparable. [Source: Supplied]

Forget the gimmicky cards and overpriced gifts, for childhood sweethearts Gay and Jimmy McNamara Valentine’s Day is all about being with the one you love for as long as you can.

Gay, now 79, came across her very own James Dean 63 years ago at the Gympie Show – from the first moment she saw him she knew he was the love of her life.

“I remember spotting Jimmy from afar and being in awe of how much he resembled Elvis Presley and James Dean. The second I got home I asked everyone I knew who that ‘good-looking boy’ was … the rest is history,” she said.

Six decades of marriage on and despite being forced to live apart, the pair remains inseparable.

Jimmy is now experiencing the early stages of dementia.

Gay travels from the family home in Zillmere to TriCare Stafford Lakes Aged Care Residence to pay her best friend his daily visit.

“I come at 8am each day and we spend a few hours together, either watching TV together or just catching up,” Gay said.

Despite the lifestyle adjustment, the couple certainly haven’t lost their romantic spark.

“Jimmy is a ‘garbage collector’ when it comes to romantic gifts – he keeps everything,” said Gay with a smile.

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Gay and Jimmy on their wedding day. [Source: Supplied]

“The most treasured Valentine’s gift I ever received from Jimmy is a diamond heart-shaped necklace he and his brother chipped in and bought me for my 15th birthday […] I’ve worn it for the last 60 years and will continue to do so, so Jimmy is always by my side.”

When Jimmy’s health began to decline last year, the pair decided TriCare’s Stafford Lakes Aged Care Residence would be the best place for him moving forward.

The round-the-clock care offers Gay peace of mind and it’s handy to get to as it’s just around the corner from the couple’s North Brisbane home.

“We’ve had a wonderful life, spent a lot of time travelling and seeing the world. Being huge Elvis fans, we’ve visited Graceland and have plenty of cherished memories to look back on,” she said.

Despite not being able to communicate as well as he used to, Jimmy hasn’t lost his cheeky sense of humour, nor his top-notch snooker skills.

“Our children, grandchildren and great grandchildren love playing pool when they come to visit, it’s something we can do to pass the time,” Gay adds.

Family connection is so important to the McNamara’s that Jimmy’s extended family donated a pool table to the facility.

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Gay and Jimmy playing a bit of snooker. [Source: Supplied]

“The family love visiting, and Jimmy really enjoyed teaching the grandchildren the skills. Our littlest grandson, who’s only five, loves coming after school and playing a game with grandpa – he’s certainly got the competitive McNamara genes,” Gay explained.

According to Facility Manager at Stafford Lakes Aged Care Residence, Sandra Finnen, the introduction of the pool table into the communal area has been a point of interest for so many of the residents.

“It brings them out of their rooms and down here for some activity and friendly competition,” she said.

While those early courting days seem so long ago now, Jimmy and Gay continue to spend quality time together, reminiscing about their incredible love story and just being beside the one they love.

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  1. Jim and Gay are 2 of the best people you could ever have the pleasure of meeting, and more so, being part of your life. They have part of my life for over 40 years and love them both dearly – they have indeed been my 2nd Mum and Dad, and more so my friends, and it pains me deeply to now see what they are both going through. They have an exceptional close-nit family as well, and I am blessed to be part of it.

  2. So pleased they both can continue their journey of love, romance and share this Valentines day together. A awesome story, inspirational and encouraging. Wishing for many more happy days ahead.

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