Roy sits on the edge of the bed, gently taking Tamara’s hand as he recounts their love story. They knew each other through church for years, and had once attended the symphony together with a mutual friend. So when Roy found himself with an extra ticket one night, he decided to invite Tamara. “We went and thoroughly enjoyed it. Afterwards we talked for hours. We found out then that we were soul mates.”
Shortly after they were married in 2002, Tamara’s health began to decline: she lost most of her vision, and experienced decreased mobility as a result. She also started to show signs of memory loss. Unable to care for Tamara on his own, Roy immediately knew to contact the CCAC for help. He had used their services before, when his first wife was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s. “The ability to have support of various types is invaluable,” he says. “In a crisis, I always know where I can go. I’ve never had a refusal, and I was always able to get advice and encouragement.”
Never leaving Tamara’s side, a devoted Roy speaks proudly of her many achievements. She was born in Russia in 1922 to a prominent family: her father owned a meatpacking company and her uncle was the mayor of Moscow. When the political climate become too dangerous for her well-to-do relatives, they immigrated to Canada using the Mennonite underground. Sadly, her father passed away soon after, leaving his family destitute. To help support her struggling mother, Tamara started working as soon as she graduated high school. She eventually landed a job as an accountant for Waterloo College, beginning a long and successful career at what would become Wilfred Laurier University.
Tamara organized the school’s finances so efficiently that the budget had a surplus for 18 consecutive years. “She was called the wizard,” Roy relates. “She knew from her upbringing what it was to be tough, to do what had to be done.” After just a few years, she was promoted to Vice-President and upon retirement, received an Honorary Doctorate for her service to the school. She was also granted the Order of Canada in recognition of her remarkable advancement from Russian refuge to the first female VP of a University. “She was an example for women,” Roy remarks of his trailblazing wife.
Tamara has been confined to her bed after a fall last year twisted both of her knees. The CCAC offered more support and physiotherapy, and a personal support worker now looks after Tamara four days a week.
A fighter all her life, Tamara now faces what might be her biggest challenge. And yet, Roy is confident her well-being is in good hands: “With the CCAC, you’re never alone. No matter what comes up, you have help.”