Memory Cafe celebrates one year

Brennan LaBrie
blabrie@ptleader.com
Posted 7/3/19

Ferino’s Pizza in Port Hadlock was almost empty on the afternoon of Thursday, June 27, except for a large group crowded around two tables at the far end of the restaurant, chatting and occasionally breaking into song.

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Memory Cafe celebrates one year

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Ferino’s Pizza in Port Hadlock was almost empty on the afternoon of Thursday, June 27, except for a large group crowded around two tables at the far end of the restaurant, chatting and occasionally breaking into song.

This group, 18 strong, was celebrating the one-year anniversary of the Memory Cafe, a monthly gathering of people with memory loss and their families. The group started the meal with a chorus of “Happy Birthday to Us,” followed by a birthday cake and ice cream.

“This is probably the liveliest it’s been,” said Joan Dillon, 66, who has been coming to the Memory Cafe meetings with her daughter, Leah, since the beginning. Co-organizer Marty Richards agreed, saying that this group outdid the average attendance of 10-12 people.

The Memory Cafe serves an important role in her social life, Dillon said.

“You don’t want to be isolated when you have a problem of any sort, but especially with dementia, sometimes it can be, if you’re not with people, really hard because you need support, whether it’s a friend, whether it’s a group. And the group is fantastic because we’re all in the same boat, and it’s really a nice feeling.”

She said that she feels a connection with the people around her.

“When people aren’t here, you wonder about them, if they’re okay,” she said.

Bethel Prescott came with her husband Steve, a 73-year-old Vietnam War veteran.

“Social life can get difficult when you have memory issues,” she said. “When you’re having a meal out somewhere and you’re the only one there that’s compromised, people go a mile a minute. It’s easy to get left out of the conversation.”

At the Memory Cafe, she said, people make sure to include Steve in the conversations and go at a pace that he’s comfortable with.

Steve is also active with the American Legion, and attends all of their Seahawks game viewings and Thanksgiving and Christmas meals, but the Memory Cafes fill the gaps in between these events. Steve said the highlight of coming to the Cafe is seeing his friends, both new and old. He pointed out his former postmaster, his boss when he worked for the local mail service, sitting at the other table.

“It’s always nice to see Jim,” he said.

Vicki Reeder, 92, came with her daughter. She is relatively new to the community, and jumped at the opportunity to make new friends.

When asked if she has made friends at the Cafe, Jim Espenson, 69, interjected. “She sure did,” he said with a smile.

Espenson, also a Vietnam War veteran, has been attending since the first Cafe.

“It’s a real social outing for Jim,” said Espenson’s wife Dianne. “He’s very outgoing and friendly and loves to talk. With his dementia, it’s getting to aphasia (a communication disorder), so things don’t come out right and I think he feels okay about it here. I noticed he’s always in a really good mood when we come here.”

Sitting next to the Espensons was Roger Reichersamer, 84, a longtime Port Townsend resident and owner of Puffin Shoe Repair for 30 years. He’s attended the meals since the beginning. “I think I’ll keep coming to it,” he said. “It seems to be a fine affair.”

Memory Cafes started in Europe, and have since spread throughout the U.S. The next closest one is in Sequim. This Memory Cafe has been working to incorporate more art and music into their gatherings, and on Thursday, the group sang standard folk and gospel tunes, accompanying them with paper mache drum sticks made by Dillon.

Richards pointed out that the Rose Theatre is part of the “Meet Me at the Movies” program, which offers clips from classic and contemporary films and facilitated audience discussion for people with memory loss and their care partners. The next program has a sports theme and will be on August 6 at 1 p.m.

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