Paul and Barbara Heneghan met and fell in love while they were students at Tufts University. He was studying engineering, and she was studying education and psychology. They got married after graduation and spent the next 52 years together, until Barbara passed away from infections complicated by Alzheimer’s disease.
“Barbara had her bachelor’s, master’s and doctorate all in education counseling fields,” says Paul proudly. Over the course of her career, she worked as a teacher, counselor, vice principal and principal in a variety of schools, public and private.
“She loved kids,” says Paul. “Before we were married, she jokingly said to me that she wanted 16 kids. We ended up having three, and that was a nice compromise.”
When Barbara turned 62, she began to experience mild cognitive impairment. Her prognosis wasn’t good. Four years later, a brain scan at Harborview Medical Center confirmed she had Alzheimer’s disease.
Although she stopped working, she never stopped being active.
“Barbara was such a vibrant, outgoing person. I was the engineer, the wallflower. She was the social butterfly,” says Paul. “One of the first things she did when she started to have memory problems was to knit hats for the homeless, between 80 to 100 hats a year. Even today, there are probably people out there wearing her hats.”
Barbara was also very active in a volunteer group called the Friends of Alzheimer’s Research, serving as president three times. The group raised seed money for research projects. “She was volunteering for Alzheimer’s long before there was any indication that she had it herself,” says Paul. And after her diagnosis, she continued to volunteer as a patient in numerous clinical trials.
Paul is also a passionate supporter of Alzheimer’s disease research and has been for the past three decades. But this year, he — supported by family and friends — went a step further by creating the Barbara Brady Heneghan Alzheimer’s Disease Support Endowed Fund, a permanent tribute and resource at UW Medicine.
Paul’s generosity is evidence of another kind of commitment that he and Barbara shared — a commitment to helping others.
“I was brought up that you want to make the world a better place,” says Paul. “Even if you can only improve it by the thinnest of margins, that’s something that you want to do.”