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Tony’s story

Tony’s story

Tony spent his career as a bus driver in Oxford. But when his wife Marie was diagnosed with dementia at the age of 66, Tony retired to care for her.

“I’ll always remember,” he says. “The lads came down the stairs, ‘there’s something wrong with Mother’ they said. And I replied, ‘Well, you better tell her because she won’t be best pleased.’”

Soon Marie was diagnosed with dementia, “My heart sank,” he remembers. But Tony and Marie never let the diagnosis stop them from living their lives. They went everywhere together, America, Wales, and importantly, their local pub.

“We would take Marie down to the Rose and Crown,” says Tony. “She had a cup of tea or coffee in a half-pint beer mug and then she’d have a packet of crisps. Adam, who runs it, never took a penny off her. He said to me ‘You have to pay, but that lady needs to be thanked for living with you for all this time’ and Marie would laugh and smile.

“She had dementia for seven and a half years. Then she had a fall in June of 2018 and after that, she couldn’t get out of bed properly. The bed was under the stairs here, and I just looked after her.”

Tony and Marie on their wedding day

Then one day, Marie had a brain bleed. She went into hospital and never came out.

“I remember feeding her the night before,” says Tony. “She was dozing off, but she suddenly woke up, looked at me and said ‘Tony!’. That was five hours before she passed away. You can’t forget these things.”

Tony was determined to ensure that Marie’s memory lived on, wanting everyone to live well with dementia, just as she did.

And so started Tony’s second career, as a community driver in Witney, transporting vulnerable people who aren’t served by local buses.

“I do four and a half hours, picking people up, dropping them off. I pull up at the stop, get off, get hold of their shopping, get it in.”

But one of the biggest parts for Tony is providing the conversation and banter, “’Al, what have you got in there?’ I say, ‘If I get a bad back out of this, you’ll be buying me a box of chocolates.’ They love all this sort of silly chatter. They’re all over the moon with it.

“The other day I picked a bloke up and he talked about how his wife just passed away four weeks ago. I told him that I know how he feels. He just wanted to chat. I hadn’t got the heart to tell him that we have a timetable to run to.”

While Tony is supporting people in his local community, he is also supporting people across the county to live well. “The money I get, I divvy up between Alzheimer’s Society and Dementia Oxfordshire.” His donations are supporting events like memory cafes and singing choirs, helping local people living with dementia to be active and social just like he and Marie were.

Tony with a photo of him and his wife, Marie, eating at a diner in America

Tony’s story was also featured in Age UK Oxfordshire’s Spring 2024 EngAGE Magazine, alongside other interesting personal experiences and plenty of useful information.

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