As many of our guests already know (and those of you who find your way here will find out!), our private lake is a magical sort of spot. Nobody can really explain what it is that makes it so special, but all of us – guests and staff alike – are simply bewitched by its natural beauty.
Such was the case of Gary Barnett, the family patriarch. “He just LOVED the lake,” says Hillary Barnett, his daughter. “Paddle boating, canoeing, even just hanging out in a chaise was his favorite place at Woodloch.” For two decades, he would return with his wife, daughters, sons-in-law, and grandchildren to get his Woodloch fix. And every year, he would leave with just a few more memories for the cause.
As years passed, Gary was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s. Alzheimer’s Disease (AD) is a chronic neurodegenerative disease that usually starts slowly and worsens over time. It affects the memory- usually, the short term memory at first. As it progresses, it affects speech, orientation, self-care, and long-term memory.
In addition to AD, Gary also battled heart disease and diabetes. But his love for Woodloch persisted, even to the point of researching and finding a dialysis center close to Woodloch so he could get his treatments while on vacation. “There were several times Alzheimer’s got the best of him and he would be confused about where he was. The interesting thing was that when this would happen, he most often put himself at Woodloch. He would say ‘Isn’t this place wonderful? What a job they’ve done here.’ He was ALWAYS there in his mind.”
Gary was admitted to the hospital with significant issues stemming from his diabetes. Despite these sizeable setbacks, he never lost site of his family vacation to Woodloch and told the doctors he would do anything they asked – including painful and intense physical therapy – so he would be able to travel with his family to Woodloch this year.
Sadly, the day before he was to be released to physical therapy (he got clearance to return to Woodloch with his family), Gary suffered a heart attack and passed away. While his loss certainly weighs heavily on their hearts, the Barnett’s will still be at Woodloch this year – honoring the memory of Gary in a very special and touching way.