Once you meet her, you will never forget Louise. She has an unexpected charm that leaves you smiling from the inside out. At first, her deadpan humor might catch you off guard, but once you recognize the twinkle in her eye, you know you’re in the company of someone extraordinary.
Louise is 62, but most anyone who knows her will tell you Louise is ageless. A few gray hairs don’t matter. She has a youthful heart, which makes Louise wise in a way most adults outgrow.
“Louise forms friendships wherever she goes,” said Lydia Schoene, Louise’s Support Coordinator at Boone County Family Resources. “She is a woman with a wealth of experience and a sharp sense of humor.”
Louise has been receiving services from Boone County Family Resources since 2006, three years after her family relocated to Columbia from St. Louis. She lives quite independently at one of BCFR’s supported living sites. She cooks, cleans and shops on her own and works four days a week cleaning tables at a McDonald’s in town. She also takes care of her 3-year-old cat Snoopy Nosey. Louise’s main goal is to move to her own apartment sand live as independently as possible.
“Right now I have a roommate,” she said. “But I prefer to live alone. We clash every once in awhile.”
Much of Louise’s indelible spirit is anchored by a strong, supportive family.
Louise was born in New York, N.Y., the only child of her parents, Ilse and Herbert. Her mother grew up in Germany, and when Louise was young her maternal grandmother lived with the family. Louise chuckles when she remembers her strict grandmother and how her stern appearance frightened the neighborhood kids.
“I’d say, ‘Hey, you wanna come over and play?’” Louise recalled. “And they would say, ‘Is your mom home?’ I’d say, ‘No,’ and they’d run away, yelling, ‘I’ll wait until your mom comes home!’”
Eventually, the family relocated to St. Louis where her father oversaw food service for TWA Airlines. Because of her father’s job, Louise has enjoyed a lifetime of travel, creating memories that have become fodder for her favorite stories.
She ticks off her travels like a well-rehearsed jingle: “Mexico, Paris, Greece, Israel, Germany, Egypt, Puerto Rico, Las Vegas, Tel Aviv, Rome, Spain, Holland, Hawaii, Hyde Park, Virginia, Kentucky, California, Washington, D.C., and Florida.”
Not only does she remember the places she’s been, but Louise can recall in vivid detail the fine nuances of her adventures, right down to the motel rooms. She’s catalogued her travels in a string of photo albums that fill a whole shelf in her apartment. She even has a five-volume collection of newspaper clippings that chronicle the Great Flood of ’93. But her favorites are the travel pictures because each one prompts a story.
Once when we were in Tel Aviv, we went into a temple where we had to take our shoes off,” Louise said, her voice rising with exasperation. “I could see taking our shoes off, but they wouldn’t let us take them with us which bothered me because all I could think about were my shoes!”
Last year, Louise’s mother died from Alzheimer’s, and BCFR helped provide counseling to help her deal with the loss. She talks often about the void in her life left by her mother’s death, but she is thrilled that her 90-year-old father lives within walking distance of her apartment.
Staff members have helped Louise learn how to pack, dispense and order her own medication. Her next step is learning how to schedule her own medical appointments and attend them independently. She would also like to learn how to prepare stove-top meals and casseroles in the oven.
Still, Louise is proud of the person she has become, crediting her travels for her spunky personality.
“I learned a lot on the road,” she said. “Now, I do what I want to do.”