Bob Wellington will admit it. He has kept secrets, even from his wife. I asked Juanita if she knew about that discussion many years ago.
“No, he couldn’t tell me. It was classified,” she said with a smile.
The year was 1979. The place Iran. Fifty-two Americans were held hostage at the U.S. Embassy. And Bob Wellington was in on the discussions at the White House to rescue those hostages.
“It was the first rescue attempt for the hostages,” Bob said. “There were thirteen of us that were responsible for the planing for this and we met in the Situation room.”
Bob Wellington was a communications officer for President Jimmy Carter.
“I was pretty amazed,” said Juanita, again smiling. “ I don’t know why he didn’t tell me.”
He had to keep to keep it a secret until it became declassified a few years ago. And that was right around the time of the ‘cupboard’ incident.
“It wouldn’t open. It was stuck,” said Wellington, demonstrating how he tried to open the kitchen cupboard.
The fact is he was trying to open it on the wrong side. That’s why it was "stuck."
“The light bulb went on,” said his wife Juanita. “ I knew something was wrong.”
Soon afterwards, at the age of 70, Bob Wellington was diagnosed with early stage Alzheimer’s.
It would have made perfect sense to keep that a secret too. But Wellington is really okay with you knowing he is living with this disease that affects 150,000 Washingtonians.
“We’re not ashamed of it,” Juanita said.
Alzheimer’s hasn’t stopped Bob from being active and making a difference.
He volunteers weekly at the Washington Women’s Education Employment program, sharing his wisdom to help women find work. He volunteers every monday at American Lake Veterans Golf course helping disabled veterans work on their swings. He also volunteers for the Alzheimer’s Association, Western and Central Washington State Chapter. ( For more information go to: alzwa.org )
In the last few months he’s been meeting with lawmakers in Olympia to ask them to support a Senate Bill to develop a state Alzheimer’s Disease plan to improve services and support for people living with Alzheimer’s. Governor Inslee signed the bill March 27, authorizing legislation for a Washington State Alzheimer's Disease Plan.
With everything Bob Wellington is doing, he is making a very strong case that people living with Alzheimer’s DO lead active, and productive lives.
“Our life is on our calendar,” said Juanita.
The couple writes everything down, so Bob doesn’t forget.
“The person who invented post-it notes is making a fortune off of us,” Bob said with a grin.
It’s no secret his condition will get worse. That’s the disease. The couple from Lakewood has learned to live with it. It’s their new normal, they say.
“Living for the now, “ Juanita said.
Their secret, living for the now, is one they’ll gladly share with everyone.
“If you get prepared for what’s going to happen, you don’t have to worry about what’s going to happen,” Juanita said.
For the Wellingtons, it’s definitely a glass half-full approach to living with Alzheimer’s.
As Bob pointed out: “There are a lot of us out there with early stage alzheimer’s who continue to be contributors , to be productive.”