Port Kent Jennifer Langlois knows it takes a lot of muscles to smile.
It’s why she can say, with certainty, that her father was a strong man.
His name was John Coolidge, and he loved his family, Lake Champlain and downhill skiing.
Langlois’s family took care of him while he lived with Lou Gehrig’s disease, or amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), and they watched as it slowly sapped his ability to move.
Coolidge was 62 when he died July 30, 2002. His smile was with him until the end.
“My father said that ALS was the best and the worst thing that ever happened to him,” Langlois said, wiping tears from her eyes. “He said it helped him appreciate life.”
The leaves changing color in autumn, the first snow of winter and laughter—endless amounts of laughter—are some of the things Coolidge had a newfound appreciation for during his last five years.
“When the doctor diagnosed him, he only gave him six months to live,” Langlois said. “It’s hard to keep your dignity when you have this disease, but he always said he was doing great.”
ALS is a neurological disorder that prevents neurons from sending messages to muscles, eventually making it impossible for people with the disease to control voluntary movement, rendering everyday motions like walking, waving or swallowing impossible.
There is no known cure, but there is always hope.
On Saturday, July 28, the ALS Raising Hope Foundation golf tournament drew hundreds to the Harmony Golf Club in Port Kent to raise money to support ALS research.
Langlois and her husband, Jason, who live in Chazy, are two of many who participate in events like this.
The couple admits they didn’t know much about ALS until someone close to them was diagnosed, but now they realize how prevalent ALS is in the region.