Meet Jean-Louis a Veteran, husband and father. His story is about love and bravery
Being a Veteran and husband of a lovely woman living with dementia, I cannot think of a better place for us to call home. And, it’s my hope that from reading our story you will see why the seniors and Veterans of Perley Health need and deserve your support now and in the future.
I’m so blessed to be here at Perley Health with Marjorie, my extraordinary wife. We’ve lived all over Canada, travelled extensively, raised three wonderful children and enjoyed our best life in retirement. But as Marjorie developed dementia, I knew it would take more than me to give her the best care possible – which is why I hope you read our story.
You see, Perley Health is one of the biggest, most progressive long-term care homes in Ontario. With 450 residents like my wife and I, it’s an incredible place – with a staff (800 people and growing!) of some of the friendliest, most devoted people I’ve met in all my years, providing a number of clinical, therapeutic and recreational services for us residents – All reasons I chose Perley Health as the place for my dearest Marjorie and I.
I’m very excited for the holidays too, because Christmas is a special time at Perley Health (this year will be my second as a resident!). Robyn, the Therapeutic Recreation and Creative Arts Program Coordinator, puts on a beautiful feast where she roasts 20 turkeys altogether. I like to joke with her that her turkeys are the best – especially because I don’t have to pay for them! The decorations and lights that staff and volunteers put up are so beautiful and every Christmas there is a big concert that staff, volunteers and residents perform in. Last year, Father Paul, our onsite Chaplain, gave a beautiful rendition of Hallelujah with Trudy, one of the talented musicians who works here, and the entire Recreation and Creative Arts team did a spin on the 12 Days of Christmas that had everyone laughing!
That’s what is so amazing about Perley Health.
It’s hard to express to you what Perley Health means to me. I’m so lucky that, even as we age and Marjorie copes with such a difficult disease, we get to see each other every day. And I know it’s because of Perley Health’s generous friends, family and neighbours that we’re so well cared for. You have to know, care like this doesn’t just happen on its own. It happens because of kind, selfless people like you. That’s why I want to ask if you will send Perley Health a gift this Christmas that will go towards initiatives like the Home Sweet Home renovation project.
The Home Sweet Home project is one of Perley Health’s efforts to ensure quality of life for residents by creating an environment that’s comfortable, aesthetically pleasing and making our rooms as ‘home-like’ as possible. The bedroom is the centre of our personal space, where we keep family photos that remind us of cherished memories and bring us such joy to look at and reminisce. That’s why we would like the space renovated. It would be the perfect Christmas gift this year for seniors and Veterans like me!
Don’t get me wrong, Perley Health is maintained and well cared for, but after 25 years a refresh is needed. This hasn’t been an easy year with everything going on with COVID-19, but it never stopped the staff from being friendly, cheery and optimistic. Please understand, donating to a project like Home Sweet Home will allow my wife, the friends I’ve made here and myself to live in a more comfortable space. That would make our Christmas complete.
You see, Christmas isn’t just about presents, colourful decorations and delicious food for me. It’s also when Marjorie and I married! The holidays were the only time I was home from the Navy (so we didn’t hesitate to tie the knot the moment we could!). That was my life for many years; a difficult dance between the Navy and my family – between being a caring father and loving husband, and being at sea, facing difficult, nerve-racking situations while serving our great nation.
Growing up, I was always attracted to the Navy because my grandfather also served. It became my goal to join as well. As an Officer’s Candidate, I went to sea during my summer vacations, travelling extensively on joint exercises. The saying went that, as Cadets, we were appointed to small ships (mine sweepers) to test whether we could adjust to “sea life.”
We sailed to the West Indies, the UK, etc. I also went on a training course on the H.M.S. Sheffield, a British cruiser, flag ship of the R.N. West Indies Squadron stationed in Bermuda. All that between my university studies. As a Francophone, I learned English the hard way. When we went ashore, my shipmates told me that certain words were not to be used!
Following my graduation (B. Com) from Laval University I received my commission as a Lieutenant R.C.N. and was appointed Logistics Officer on the H.M.C.S. Huron, a tribal class destroyer, and deployed to Korea. When the truce was signed, we patrolled to apprehend and intercept infiltrators and suspect shipping on the West coast of Korea.
In 1954, we sailed from Halifax West via the Panama Canal and westward to the Far East. After six months in far eastern waters we proceeded westward again, showing the flag in 12 countries, thus circumnavigating the globe, returning to Halifax in April 1955.
It was an exciting time, but a difficult one too. Before my deployment, I met my future wife, Marjorie, in Quebec City. We were in love, but decided not to get married in case the worse happened to me. But the moment I came home, we married. I was on a two-week leave after being away for a year and a half and we married December 27. Then a week later, I was back in Halifax boarding to rejoin my ship.
Christmas is such an important time for us both. It’s the time we said, “I do” to each other – two words that have led to a marriage that’s lasted nearly 65 years. And to this day, goes strong at Perley Health. That’s why I hope you’ll send Perley Health a gift and help us live just a little more comfortably.
After Korea, I served either at sea on the H.M.C.S. Mackenzie and Skeena, or in shore establishments on both coasts, in Montreal and the Naval Headquarters in Ottawa, where I retired in 1973. Military life is hard on families. They get moved about constantly all over and there’s very little recognition for what service wives go through. But my wife was supportive as we moved around taking care of our three amazing children.
It was a difficult balance between the Navy and our family. There were times I had to put my foot down and say “No. Family First” to my superiors – and looking back, it probably cost me a promotion. But it was worth it for the extra time I got to spend with my family – and I’m blessed that so many years later I get to see Marjorie every day at Perley Health. It warms my heart just thinking about it.
A few years ago, Marjorie’s dementia began to worsen. I did everything I could to care for her, but since I was alone, our children having left home, after three years, I had to be honest. At my age, I couldn’t give her the care she needed. So, I looked for the best place that would take care of her. We visited many places, and no matter where we went, everyone urged us to go to Perley Health. “Go to Perley,” they said. “You’re a Veteran and they’ll take care of both of you.” We came to Perley Health and are now experiencing what everyone had told us. You really cannot compare.
My wife has lived here since January of last year, and I joined her the following March. It was certainly an adjustment for both of us. Speaking for myself, I lost certain things that made me feel independent, like my queen size bed, my garden and taking my wife out – but what I gained was an entire village of caring and compassionate people.
When I first moved to Perley Health, what impressed me most was the staff. They always go out of their way to make life better in small ways that mean so much. For example, Sarah enlisted her husband to make a “No Parking” sign for my car to make sure that my space would not be taken. I should also mention Colleen, who turned my car engine for me during the lockdown, to make sure that the battery would not shut down. This to mention only two examples among many.
It’s a fantastic home with incredible personnel, which is why I hope you will send a donation to Perley Health. I cannot say enough what that would mean to me, the staff, other residents and the love of my life, Marjorie. A gift from you will bring some added holiday cheer to us all. Your donation means we get to start the new year knowing Perley Health will soon feel even more like home.
Everyday I see such incredible empathy and understanding in those working with residents living with dementia and physical limitations. They care for Marjorie with such patience and compassion. I know from caring for her how difficult it can be, but I can’t help but admire their constant devotion. I visit Marjorie regularly. It was difficult to not see her during the onset of COVID-19, but I knew the staff over in the Gatineau Residence were there to care for her.
You see, a gift from you doesn’t just benefit us. It benefits the staff at Perley Health by making the care they deliver all the better. You make that possible with the resources and funds you provide. I know first-hand their goal is to make our lives more comfortable and enjoyable. I see that daily and know it’s thanks to the generosity of so many.
Please consider a holiday gift to Perley Health. I’m proud of my service to Canada. I’m blessed I get to see Marjorie every day. And I’m grateful to call Perley Health my home. But most of all, I’m full of hope that you’ll support Perley Health and make it even better for seniors and Veterans like my wife and I and many more who live here.
Thank you for your kindness, your empathy and your generosity. From both of us, we hope you and your loved ones have a safe and Merry Christmas!
LCdr Jean Louis Roy CD, (Ret’d), RCN
Korean War Veteran and
Perley Health resident