CHARLOTTE, N.C. (QUEEN CITY NEWS) — Thousands of caregivers and supporters will gather Saturday morning for this year’s Walk to End Alzheimer’s.

It will be the second year for Team Conway Queen lovingly named after Mary Francis.

“I have very fond memories of my mom and I told her so up until her last days,” explained Beverly Francis Gibson. Gibson lost her mother, Mary Francis, the day after Christmas in 2018.

Like so many families, it started with the little things. Gibson recalls her mother would get lost and repeat stories. “There were little things showing us that she wasn’t right,” Gibson said.

“To hear her laugh was simply a joy,” recalled Djarta Halliday, Gibson’s granddaughter.

The mother-daughter duo has stacks of pictures capturing decades of memories.

“In the Black community and even more so in the Caribbean community we don’t typically talk about issues,” the two said as they finished each other’s sentence. They want to share the story of their beloved matriarch in hopes that it may help another family and put the research community one step closer to finding a cure.

Mary Francis was born in the Caribbean. She was a woman of strong faith with a passion for singing. She was a seamstress, a teacher, an excellent entertainer, and good with numbers but she was most proud of her family.

“First of all, I didn’t know anyone who had Alzheimer’s disease. I didn’t know what I was dealing with but there was relief in knowing what the diagnosis was,” Gibson said.

The family immediately turned to the Alzheimer’s Association.

“I remembered wondering what it would be like when my mom didn’t remember me anymore,” said Gibson.

Support groups offered light during this dark time and an idea of what was to come. That’s why Halliday organized a team to walk in honor of her Granny.

“I work in research and run clinical trials for a living. I know how important it is to find groundbreaking treatments for diseases like this. There’s not a cure, but there is a way to cope. That coping is accompanied by support groups, love, and from the people around you,” explained Halliday.

The disease may have robbed Mary Francis of her memories, but it never took her spirit.

“Honestly, she would probably hate that we were making a fuss, but she’d be glad we were educating people and spreading awareness,” Halliday said.

It’s part of the reason this mother and daughter will continue to talk about the disease all while keeping Mary Francis’ memory alive.

“I hope we realize how important it is as a community to support people going through this because I see it as a silent disease,” said Gibson.

Queen City News is a proud sponsor of the Walk to End Alzheimer’s. Join us on Saturday, October 21, 2023, at Truist Field for this year’s walk.

Registration opens at 9 a.m. and the opening ceremony starts at 10 a.m.