Thursday, April 25, 2024

Family continues mother’s legacy to support caregivers and the Alzheimer’s Association®

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Shirley Anderson always made an impression with her stylish grace and dainty face.

Her holiday dishes were legendary, including her Black Forest Cake topped with Merlot-marinated cherries. She called the dessert Sweet Red Raider in honor of her daughter’s alma mater. In a dash, she could add major bling to any buffet table, but beneath her southern charm lay a fearless businesswoman dedicated to holistic medicine. 

As a single mom in the 1980s, she self-funded her education and grabbed an advanced diploma in Myotherapy. She started her own practice called Total Concept located on Bridge Street in Granbury and committed her life to treating those in chronic pain. Ironically, a good amount of her patients were caregivers who had neglected their own bodies due to years of nursing and tending to others.

“Shirley was a pioneer in meditative treatment," said Bob Anderson, her husband of 31 years. "She was a true healer, both physically and spiritually.”

Bob married Shirley in 1992. At that time, only a few specialists in Hood County practiced holistic pain treatment. She was one of the first therapists in town to help educate war veterans on the effects of PTSD on the body.

She broke the stigma that massage therapy was a luxury, or for women only. In fact, almost 40% of her clients were male, and many of them were also caregivers in one way or another.

Caregiving became a journey for Shirley's own family, especially for her dedicated husband who became her main caregiver when she was diagnosed with dementia almost a decade ago. It quickly developed into Alzheimer’s Disease. She succumbed to it just a couple of weeks ago.

A Celebration of Life will be held in her honor at Lakeside Baptist Church at 10 a.m. Tuesday, Feb. 27, but her legacy to support caregivers and the Alzheimer’s Association® continues.

Her youngest daughter, Stacy Thornton, founded Coeur Cause® Wines over four years ago. The winery produces premium red and white wines. Ten percent of every bottle of Chardonnay and Cabernet Sauvignon sold goes to the Alzheimer’s Association® as a direct donation to help advance Alzheimer’s care, support and research. To date, the winery has raised almost $100,000 for charitable missions. “Coeur” means “heart” in French.

“Mom always said if you're going to do something, do it from your heart,” said Stacy. “According to the Alzheimer’s Association®, one in three seniors will die of some form of dementia and about 30% of caregivers are age 65 or older. Those caregivers also have to cover about 70% of the costs either through out-of-pocket health and long-term care expenses, or from the value of unpaid care. Mom inspired me to start a cause-driven business to shed light on these staggering statistics.”

Throughout her life, Shirley was a force in inspiring women to launch their own businesses. Before she married Bob, she started a single mothers group empowering women to lift themselves out of limited means. Dance lessons were a part of the curriculum, and her impeccable two-step was as graceful as Swan Lake (but with boots instead of ballet pointes).

Those dance lessons led to one of her first encounters with her husband, Bob. For many years, friends would commission her creative flair for interior design and his talent for building new homes. Together, they were anchored by their community, church and friendships, enjoying many social activities.

In fact, all of Shirley’s children were influenced by their mother’s philanthropy. Her oldest daughter, Kim Carter Lewis, is actively involved in veterans’ events and local charities. Along with their brother, Wade Thornton, the three siblings are organizing an appreciation event in honor of Bridgewater Memory Care, the facility that cared for their mother.

The family will soon announce a fundraiser for the Alzheimer’s Association®. In the meantime, people can find the wine at CoeurCause.com. For resource and help information on Alzheimer's Disease, go to alz.org.