Superwalk honouree loved socializing

'He definitely made some good friendships there'

The impact of Parkinson's disease is still fresh for the Marriott family.

Don Marriott, husband to Bev and father to Jim, Terry, Doug, Mike and Laurie, died in mid-July at age 83 after being diagnosed with Parkinson's about a decade before.

Rendy Olthuis, facilitator for the Kamloops Parkinson Awareness Group, said the family was asked if Marriott could be this year's Superwalk honouree, despite how recent his death was.

The family has agreed, and daughter Laurie Kraige explained that her dad would have loved being in the spotlight for the walk - an event he attended six or seven times, when he could.

"He was really social. He definitely made some good friendships there," she said.

In fact, Marriott was all about the social side of the support group and the walk itself. It's a symbolic walk, as some participants who have Parkinson's can't go long distances.

Still, Kraige recalled her dad being eager to get back at the gathering area, where the action - and people - were.

"We'd get two-thirds of the way through and he'd say, 'Let's take the shortcut.' "

So the fact that this year's Kamloops Superwalk is dedicated to her dad seems only fitting.

"He would definitely be quite jazzed because he did like attention," she said.

Olthuis is hoping for about 200 participants at this, the 10th Superwalk in Kamloops. Despite how pervasive Parkinson's is, it hasn't drawn large attention or big fundraising crowds.

"There are a lot more people in the community who have it who haven't come out about it," she said.

There are celebrities who have helped the cause; most notably is Michael J. Fox, who was diagnosed when he was 30 but didn't go public until seven years later. Rocker Linda Ronstadt has just disclosed she also has the disease.

"It's a disease people usually associate with old age and so they expect it to be a natural part of aging," she said.

Not necessarily.

"One woman at farmers market said her 27-year-old son has been diagnosed with it," Olthuis said.

Marriott family members will be at Superwalks wherever they are. Kraige said her niece Sarah Vertlieb in Hamilton has collected a group of walkers who have dubbed themselves The Marriott Marchers.

Don Marriott wasn't just another person with Parkinson's. He taught in a one-room schoolhouse in the early 1950s and was principal of a small school in Brocklehurst, then worked at B.C. Interior Saw Mills, then Weyerhaeuser where he became vice-president before he retired in his late 70s.

He was also past-president of the Royal Inland Hospital Foundation and Rotary Club of Kamloops.

And, of course, he was a husband, brother, father and grandfather.

Kraige said her dad didn't show some of the more typical signs of Parkinson's, especially at the outset. Most noticeable was that he stared out the window for long periods.

He developed some tremors, but not as intense as many people associate with Parkinson's. In the last year or so, dementia associated with the disease began to show.

The family learned a lot about Parkinson's with Marriott's diagnosis and will continue to support the charity. Kraige said she'd like to see more people have an awareness and some understanding of the disease, because those who have it can be misunderstood.

"If you see someone shaking or moving slow or taking time to respond, just try to understand," she said.

Olthuis said the money raised by the Superwalk goes to Parkinson's B.C. for research and also to support local groups for seminars and education sessions.

The walk is set for Saturday, Sept. 7, at Riverside Park. Registration is at 10 a.m. and the walk begins at 11 a.m. Online registration is available at www.parkinson.bc.ca/BC-SuperWalk-Locations.

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