Daughter reminisces about dad she's never forgotten.
The 4th Annual Walk to Defeat ALS will take place Saturday, Sept. 17, on the Rehoboth Beach Boardwalk. Registration begins at 8:30 a.m at the Bandstand. The walk, which is approximately 2 miles, begins at 9:30 a.m. Walkers can preregister atwww.alsphiladelphia.org. People can create their own team, join an existing team or simply donate to the walk.
And those are the quintessential facts, Jack, but they really don't begin to tell the story of unrelenting hope in the face of impossible odds and of families dealing with a progressive disorder that is unrelentingly unkind.
Mary Lou Allen and her mother, Mary Ann Wollter, organized the Rehoboth walk after losing beloved father and husband Gene Wollter to amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, aka Lou Gehrig's disease, in April 2006. Mary Lou is a former student of mine at Cape and is a Daddy's girl in that she is such a strong, competent, yet nice person, like her father. You want to launch an investigation to find out if she is for real.
I asked Mary Lou to write to me and tell me some things about her father Gene:
"Dad was the greatest, and who didn't know the Man with the Christmas Lights? He loved to put up lights and decorate at Christmas. He made all the strings of lights himself, played music outside, had a mailbox for letters to Santa, and a giant American flag he made out of wood, and the lights. People stopped all the time to admire them and even drove around the driveway. Some would even leave money in our mailbox or bags of lights on our porch for him to use.
"Dad was born and raised in Milford and lived there until 1964, when he married Mother and they moved to Milton. Dad worked for General Foods as a mechanic until 1974, when he took over my grandfather's dry cleaning business, which was only one store in Dover at the time. Dad grew that business into six stores including a contract with Dover AFB. He was a hard worker and never gave up fighting to improve the business. Mom, my brother and myself all worked there as well. Dad sold the business in 1995, and he was diagnosed with ALS in 2002."
Heading south on Route 1, we all remember the house of lights at Christmas time. Mary Lou continues:
"Through the years Dad was in the Jaycees and was the state president of the Delaware Jaycees, JCI senator, Milton's Outstanding Young Man in 1976, Master of Endeavor Lodge No. 17 Milton, a member of St. John's Episcopal Church of Milton and Eagle's Nest Fellowship Church in Milton, a member of the Rotary Club in Dover, just to name a few.
"His greatest joys in his life were his grandchildren, Randall and Brady. He was so worried that Brady, being so young, wouldn't remember him, but there isn't a day that goes by that he doesn't mention his 'Pop-Pop Gene.' And Randall, being his first grandchild, was just the light in his eye, and every time I look at Randall I see my Daddy!"
Mary Lou went on remembering her dad through the tough times of his illness..
"Dad was strong, a fighter and he never gave up. He never lost his sense of humor, and boy, did he have a sense of humor! I find myself saying things all of the time that he said, and I talk to him all of the time. Before he died, his one wish was for us to help others with ALS and help find a cure for this horrible disease. Three years ago my Mom started this walk, and my husband Brian, myself and Mother have continued it and will continue it until someone finds a cure.
"I can remember sitting up at night with my Daddy when he was sick because he couldn't sleep. He would call for me and I would come running, thinking something was wrong, and he would say, 'No, I just want you to sit with me and talk,' and those were some of the best times I ever had with my Daddy. We laughed and cried and shared so many things together! Of course I was a Daddy's little girl, and I miss him so much. On April 20, 2006, he left behind a loving wife, Mary Ann; two children, John and Mary Lou; two sons-in-law, Brian an
d Rolf; two grandchildren, Randall and Brady; the best sisters any one could ask for, and so many more family members and friends."
You can support Mary Lou Allen's efforts by visiting her walk page here.