By Sharna Fulton
In 1971, at the age of 24, Eddie Mowles became smitten by his 30 year old boss, Priscilla at Gibson’s Department Store. “She was a super lady. She took my breath away,” said Eddie.
Never one to beat around the bush, Priscilla evidently felt the same way about Eddie. A few years later, while opening a store together in Florida, she told him, “you’re going to marry me.”
And so he did.
The worsening economy in 1979 led them to Georgia where Priscilla’s uncle got Eddie a job at a carpet mill in Dalton. (He later became the plant manager.) After the mill closed in 1984, Eddie started his own carpet tufting business. Meanwhile, his hard working and entrepreneurial wife, Priscilla built her own bowling alley just over the Georgia line in Tennessee.
Years later, after she sold it to AMF, Priscilla started yet another business buying and managing rental properties. Through the years, two things remained constant – their love for each other and a strong work ethic, which had brought them together and for which, they both shared.
As Eddie and Priscilla each kept their nose to the grindstone, their goal was to one day retire, buy a motorhome and hire a driver to take them to places they had never been before.
“We had a great life, a nice home on the lake,” said Eddie. All was going according to plan until 2007 when, at the age of 66, Priscilla began having memory problems. She would ask a question and then repeat it a few minutes later. She couldn’t remember what she’d had for breakfast that day. Her bookkeeper eventually came to Eddie and told him he would need to take over her rental property business.
Then, one morning in February 2010, Priscilla woke up, turned over, looked at Eddie and said, “Who are you? Get out of my bed!”
“I’m Eddie, Priscilla,” he replied. As he explains it, he eventually became three people: one who ate with her, one who watched TV with her and one who went to sleep with her. But to Priscilla, Eddie was not Eddie anymore. He was “the nice guy.” No longer remembering him as her husband, she’d show him pictures of himself in his younger years describing “how handsome her husband used to be.”
“Alzheimer’s is a dream snatcher, not a dream catcher,” says Eddie, who has a way with words. “I lost 40 pounds, my sense of humor and my wife.”
Eventually, he took Priscilla to a hospital in Chattanooga to get a diagnosis, which took over a month. Then, he had to do the toughest thing he ever had to do, take her to a home. “Don’t throw me away,” pleaded Priscilla. “It was harder than a family member passing away,” said Eddie. “But we didn’t have a choice.”
Thankfully, Eddie had the tremendous support of his siblings who helped him through the heart wrenching process. He also connected with the Alzheimer’s Association and, to this day, takes part in support groups, sharing his story and helping other Alzheimer’s and dementia caregivers. Discovered by Ft. Oglethorpe’s UCTV at “Dancing Stars,” an annual Alzheimer’s Association fundraiser where Eddie used to speak, he is now a regular guest on a weekly TV show called “Senior Moments.”
He also still runs Priscilla’s property management business and enjoys “helping others who others don’t often help,” assisting them to get property loans or even giving them a down payment.
But every day at 4 p.m, he stops working, gets in his car and drives to Chatsworth where Priscilla, now unable to walk or talk, lives. When he sees her, he says, “Hey little girl. It’s Eddie. I’m here to see Priscilla.” Then, he takes her down to dinner, feeds her and returns her to her room to spend a little more time before he leaves at 7.
To learn more about the Alzheimer’s Association, Georgia Chapter visit alz.org/georgia.