It is with great sadness that we share the news of the sudden passing of Jeannette Tootell, founding member of the Alzheimer Society of Hamilton, on Friday, April 2, 2021. Jeannette served the Alzheimer Society of Hamilton as a volunteer for over 35 years.
In 1982 Jeannette’s mother-in-law was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease. Due to a lack of resources in Hamilton, Jeannette created an information service to assist families experiencing a dementia diagnosis, which eventually became the Alzheimer Society of Hamilton. Jeannette set up an office in her basement (using a diaper box to store files), put together a board of directors, and applied for Trillium funding to hire an educator.
Celebrating a Legacy of Care and Service
In the early months of 2021, Alzheimer Society staff, led by Volunteer Engagement Coordinator Paul Scibetta, spent weeks gathering cards, letters and gifts to celebrate and acknowledge Jeannette’s 35 years of dedicated service.
As Chief Executive Officer Mary Burnett shares, “Jeannette Tootell was an amazing woman who contributed greatly in many different roles with the Alzheimer Society over 35 years. Her Wednesday morning sessions were a lifeline for many. She helped hundreds navigate the experience of caring for someone living with dementia.”
To add a touch of humour and wit to the care package, Paul packaged up all the expressions of gratitude in a diaper box, as a nod to the early days of the Society!
The next day, Jeannette wrote a letter back to Paul reflecting back on her decades of service. We treasure those words now and hold them close as a comfort while we grieve the loss of Jeannette and celebrate her incredible legacy:
Jeannette’s Story in Her Words
Good morning Paul:
In November of 1982 when the specialist told my late husband “your mother cannot go home” and went directly to Henderson Hospital, I could never have dreamed of how my life would be changed – personally stressed yes, but so enriched by so many incredible people. From diaper box to diaper box will be my forever joke.
Yesterday, your front porch delivery evoked so many memories of fellow sojourners on the road of life. In January of 1988 when Gertrude Cetinski and I were opening boxes of furniture to establish our very first office at 875 Main West, and the very first walk-in client came through the door to say, “I’m concerned about my wife”, he was the first of many to come into the care of the Alzheimer Society. It is difficult for me to wrap my head around the growth of the Society to the present time.
The gifts and cards in yesterday’s diaper box prompted tears and laughter. Many thanks for the messages, cards and notes, the shawl, the hat… the plaque, the beautiful floral arrangement – I will cherish them all. To each and every person involved with the present organization in whichever location you find yourself, thank you for the ways in which you are making life easier for those affected by dementia.
Again, my thanks.
Hugs and blessings,
Funeral arrangements were entrusted to Cresmount Funeral Home and memories can be shared online at https://www.dignitymemorial.com/en-ca/obituaries/hamilton-on/jeannette-tootell-10136282. In lieu of flowers, Jeannette asked that people donate to her favourite charity, the Alzheimer Society, or to her faith community, Wentworth Baptist Church, 120 Wentworth St N, Hamilton, ON L8L 5V7.