Inspiring stories of people battling Alzheimer’s

Published 1:30 am Saturday, July 9, 2016

Legendary women’s basketball coach Pat Summitt passed away recently, at the age of 64, after a five-year battle with Alzheimer’s disease. She was head coach of the University of Tennessee Lady Vol’s for 38 years, winning eight national titles and 1,098 games.

According to published reports, her son, Tyler, commented, “For 64 years, my mother first built her life upon a strong relationship with her Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. Her foundation was also built upon love of her family and of her players, and love for the fundamentals of hard work which reflected her philosophy that ‘you win in life with people.’”

Pat Summitt established a foundation to help others diagnosed with Alzheimer’s. She stated, “It is our hope that by creating this Alzheimer’s clinic at the University of Tennessee Medical Center, everyone will have access to resources that will help them as they walk through this difficult journey.”

The news of her death brought to mind an inspiring life story of a husband, Robertson McQuilkin, whose wife was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s. After hearing about Pat’s passing, I then learned that McQuilkin has died at the age of 88.

He served as president of the Columbia Bible College and Seminary for 22 years. In 1990, at the age of 62 and the height of his career, he resigned his position to care fulltime for his wife, Muriel, for the next ten years. She was terrified to be without him.

The couple met while students at the college. During their 55-year marriage, they had six children. They spent 12 years as missionaries to Japan. When McQuilkin became president in 1968, she taught at the college.

Robertson McQuilkin’s resignation speech can still be viewed online. In a Christianity Today article, he once said, “When the time came, the decision was firm. It took no great calculation. It was a matter of integrity. Had I not promised, 42 years before, ‘in sickness and in health….till death do us part?’”

“This was no grim duty to which I stoically resigned, however. It was only fair. She had, after all, cared for me for almost four decades with marvelous devotion; now it was my turn. If I took care of her for 40 years, I would never be out of her debt.”

A newspaper article about Robertson McQuilkin described him as a gifted speaker “who could explain in-depth theological teachings in layman’s terms.” According to current president of Columbia Bible College, Bill Jones, McQuilkin’s favorite Bible verse was 2 Corinthians 3:18, “But we all, with unveiled face, beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as by the Spirit of the Lord.”

Robertson McQuilkin wrote 19 books, some of them after his retirement. One of the most popular, “A Promise Kept,” describes McQuilkin’s years care giving for his wife. He said, “To put God first means that all the responsibilities He gives you are first too.” McQuilkin was an example of Christ-like love.