Al Potvin knows how to prepare for an interview.
At 87, about eight years ago he was diagnosed with Parkinson’s Disease. The disease has progressed to the point where it’s easier to have others do the talking.
His voice is soft, and his speech hard to understand now, so instead of speaking for himself, he asked his family to do it for him.
At his request, his children (and step-children), as well as several of his best friends, and his wife sent letters or emails describing how Parkinson’s has affected him over the past years. The letters are similar in their stories of his decline and a brilliant description of how devastating the disease is.
His speech is slurred and slow, but his eyes tell a story — bright, clear, knowledgeable. Al’s son, Chris, describes it like this: “Dad’s speech has changed from strong and clear to weakened and very faint…”
Al ‘knows’ Parkinson Disease inside and out having collected a wealth of information which he keeps at his fingertips.
His movements are slower. His son Paul says he “…requires a high level of concentration to move his legs and feet…”
But Paul also points out his sense of humour hasn’t changed: “Dad likes to remind us that ‘It sucks getting old!’ or if he’s struggling with something like standing up he’ll quip with a smile and a chuckle — ‘This is going to be you in 20 or 30 years!’”
When eating or swallowing he chokes, coughs a bit — but stops until it passes.
What hasn’t changed are his positive attitude, his sense of humour (wicked, with a glint in his eye and a grin), his awareness of what’s going on in the world, his memory, his desire to learn and his delight in meeting people.
His wife Shirley Fulton-Deugo writes frankly and powerfully: “As a husband he is loving, supportive and realizes this is not an easy transition for either one of us! The altered body has not changed the kind-hearted gentle man that I married.”
Al’s aware his life has taken a turn. Even so, he moves forward and has most recently established the Al Potvin Family Foundation by donating $1 million of his estate to support Mississippi Mills youth.
On September 10, Al expects to be out walking (or rolling) with hundreds of others supporting the Parkinson Canada SuperWalk in Perth.
The first walk was in 2017 and it’s back again at Conlon Farm after a long Covid interruption.
“The Lanark North Leeds SuperWalk has attracted hundreds of people who, with the generous support of local sponsors and donors, has raised over $300,000 for support services, research, education and advocacy efforts.”
Co-chairs of the Perth SuperWalk, Pat Evans and Gayle Truman, urge walkers to come out for a good cause, greet familiar faces, walk for 2 km, and enjoy a snack and some good music before heading home.
- Register for the walk, or to make a donation online at http://donate.parkinson.ca/Lanark-NorthLeeds. Or, call 1 (800) 565-3000 and ask for SuperWalk
- Saturday, September 10, Conlon Farm, 109 Smith Dr., Perth. Check-in starts at 9:30.