Local Commentary

Guest Commentray: The Journey No One Chooses to Take

By Nancy Cromwell Scott

My husband, Jim Scott, who represented Falls Church in the Virginia House of Delegates, and I have taken many wonderful trips during our 44 years together. Perhaps most memorable have been our annual vacations in Long Beach Island, New Jersey, with old friends who have become extended family, as well as trips with our two daughters to our majestic national parks. The memories of those travels are slipping away from Jim as he now journeys the path that Alzheimer’s disease is taking him.

Jim has led a life of action in public service, always seeking ways to create coalitions to expand access to affordable housing and overcome the hurdles of poverty and discrimination. He started his Northern Virginia career in 1966 as director of the Fairfax Community Action Program, a public-private partnership formed to promote self-sufficiency of the poor. Frustrated with the responsiveness of some local officials, Jim took a chance and, on a shoestring budget, ran for the Board of Supervisors. To everyone’s surprise, including his own, he became the Providence District Supervisor in 1972.

On the Fairfax Board, Jim won approval for the County’s now much-expanded School-Aged Child Care program, as well as for the first County Office for Children in Virginia. He authored Fairfax’s Human Rights Ordinance and resolutions creating the Environmental Quality Advisory Council, the Washington metro area’s first county Commission on the Handicapped, and a re-instituted Fairfax Fair. He led successful efforts to encourage affordable housing in new developments and pushed to provide infrastructure improvements (sidewalks and sewers!) in older neighborhoods.

After the 1990 census, Jim was elected to the new 53rd District seat in the House of Delegates. In Richmond, he continued advocacy for affordable housing as well as for issues pertaining to mental health, head injury services, teleworking, and higher education. For a time Jim was proud to be the only member of the Legislature with a degree from George Mason University (MPA ’82). He was able to obtain much-appreciated State funding for GMU’s growing Center for Conflict Resolution as well as for Falls Church’s Homestretch program, which has helped diminish homelessness in the Falls Church area.

Jim’s ability to stay involved with our community and to remember his achievements, has gradually slipped away. Until last year the cognitive changes were gradual. At first doctors attributed them to normal aging, but Jim correctly realized that it was time to retire from the House of Delegates in 2013.

As we embarked on our Alzheimer’s journey, we were fortunate to discover the non-profit Insight Memory Care Center, then located in Merrifield. With time, our involvement with Insight, since moved to a larger space near Fair Oaks, has grown. We first attended a couples’ support group for those in the early stages of memory loss; last fall Jim joined a weekly group for early stage participants. Since his Alzheimer’s disease has progressed, as it inevitably does, he has moved to the full day program which provides structure and stimulation for him and respite time for me to attend to my aging parents and our new granddaughter. The only dementia-specific day center in the D.C. metro area, Insight has been a lifeline for both of us.

Traces of the Jim we know and love remain: a proud UNC graduate and loyal Tarheel, Jim is most comfortably dressed in blue – not Duke blue! – and his Carolina cap. He has followed the presidential campaign and like many is appalled by the rhetoric of Donald Trump. He recently was visibly saddened to learn a TV commentator defending Trump was a UNC graduate.

There are still joys in our life – we joined Insight’s Caregiver Cruise to New England early in the summer with other couples and staff; we cheer for our beloved Nats, and we look forward next week to hosting our 24th annual Democratic Labor Day BBQ, now sponsored by Jim’s very able successor, Delegate Marcus Simon.

Friends often ask what they can to do help. It’s hard to think of an answer, but supporting Insight’s education and support programs is one way to honor Jim and help others in our community who also find themselves on this cloud-filled journey. In tribute to Jim and to Insight, Marcus will donate half the proceeds of this year’s BBQ to Insight Memory Care Center. Insight’s mission and staff echo so many aspects of Jim’s long career: a commitment to those in need, a resource and voice for those who have lost theirs, and a focus on community as a source of strength. Those of us traveling this road cannot turn back or halt our journey, but we keep standing with the support of family, friends, and caring professionals like those at Insight.

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