By Amy Johnston
Jeannette and Milton Jones met in school when Jeanette moved to Columbus and was in the 7th grade. It was not exactly love at first sight. It took an out of town track meet while in high school for cupid to strike.
“I really got to know Jeanette in high school because she was dating some of the guys on my football team. I remember two days before Easter, our service club got together to dye Easter eggs for the Boys and Girls Club. We met eyes and I asked her out on a date. We went to the theater to see ‘The Creature from the Black Lagoon,’ which we both hated.”
Two weeks went by and Jeannette called Milton to be her date to dance. Milton was excited to get the chance to see Jeannette again as he thought she was the finest girl he’d ever met.
“I found out later that the guys she was dating at the time were out of town at a track meet in Macon. I guess I was down the list of potential dates,” said Milton
After a summer romance of spending every evening together watching television, Milton attended Emory in Oxford in 1954. Jeanette was still in high school but Milton came home every weekend to see her. In 1955, Jeanette and her family moved to Atlanta where she attended Agnes Scott. Because of the long distance, Jeanette and Milton decided to elope.
“We had a wonderful life together with four children. Jeannette was a teacher while I was a lawyer, and then served as a Georgia state legislator, working alongside former President Jimmy Carter. When he was Governor, he appointed me to the Board of Regents of the University System, “said Milton
In 2007, while vacationing in China, alarm bells went off with Milton. “We got back to the hotel and Jeanette wanted to browse in the hotel gift shop. I went back to the room and waited for her to return, but she never came back.”
Finally, after contacting the front desk and looking at security videos, Jeanette returned to the room. saying she could not remember the room number. “This was unlike her,” Milton explained. “First, she would not have forgotten the number, but if she had, she would have gone to the front desk and asked. I knew first-hand what Alzheimer’s looked like because my maternal grandmother and mother both had the disease. Jeannette and I were primary caregivers for my mother until she was placed in memory care.”
After several similar incidents, Jeannette and Milton decided to seek an answer and turned to Emory in Atlanta where they were given a diagnosis of Alzheimer’s disease. Milton then came to the Alzheimer’s Association for support and that is when he met David Marlowe, Program Director in the Columbus office.
“The Alzheimer’s Association and particularly David is a lifesaver,” said Milton. “David is a confidant and I truly commend the work that he is doing and the work of the Alzheimer’s Association.”
Jeannette’s disease slowly progressed in the beginning and Milton was able to manage his wife’s care. However, after a frightening incident at a family gathering, he realized things were progressing much faster. Milton’s son-in-law was diagnosed with Lewy Body Dementia. His granddaughter and her new husband skipped their honeymoon to help care for her stepfather so Milton’s daughter could help me with Jeanette.
“The last two to three years got really bad and I had to make the toughest decision of my life of placing my wife of 65 years in a memory care facility. It took a support group and pressure from my family to help me see that was best for Jeannette and myself,” said Milton.
He is now living alone, but still finds himself talking to Jeannette, forgetting she is not right beside him as she was for more than six decades. He visits her daily and while she is slipping away, Milton only remembers his beloved wife as the strong, confident and “smartest girl he ever met.”