Barb’s Buzz – A Real Friend Stays By Your Side When the Rest of the World Walks Out

Johnson, Zacharias, Wallrath
(left) Barbara Cheek Johnson, Lynne Ebert Zacharias, Jeanne Ketterer Wallrath

Friends are so important, especially as you navigate Alzheimer’s disease.  It is a journey with many unknowns.  And you need true friends.  Life- long friends.  I am lucky – I have those.

I just hosted an incredibly fun “girlfriends sleepover weekend” with three of those friends in June.  We spent three wonderful days together.  The thought of four women taking over the house sent my husband, Dan, to Chicago to visit the grandkids! But we girls all had a fabulous time talking, eating, shopping, talking more, going to restaurants, and chatting on the patio.  We did a lot of talking.  Well, we had a lot of catching up to do.  I tire easily at night because of the medications I take for my Alzheimer’s.  But the girls all understood and let me retreat to my bedroom when I needed to.  That is real friendship!

I met my first life-long friend, Lynne Ebert , in the alley behind our Milwaukee homes.  We were both three years old.  She lived on the other side of our city block.  One day my mom gave me some flowers to plant with a little shovel along the side of our house.  As I was planting, I looked up and there stood Lynne.  She was on roller skates with another little girl.  Both girls rolled up and helped me plant the flowers.  After that, I asked my mom if I could roller skate around the block with them.  The rest is history.  The new girl, Jeanne Ketterer, and I became best friends that day too.

Lynne, Jeanne and I did everything together.  We walked to 35th Street School in Milwaukee every day.  Later when we went to Edison Junior High School, we met another girl named Jeannie Minikel.  She lived near Edison and we often stopped at her house after school to get a treat.  The four of us were inseparable, and went on to attend Custer High School.  Jeannie Minikel and Lynne Ebert made the cheerleading squad.  Jeanne Ketterer and I became Custer Rockets, a dance team that performed at football and baseball games.

After high school we split up, going off to different colleges.  But we never lost touch.  In fact, when I started dating my husband Dan, I reached out to Lynne to see if she knew him as they both were attending the University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh.  She did know him and gave me all the lowdown!

Over 40 years later we are still best friends, having had our 3rd annual girlfriends weekend.  Jeanne Ketterer traveled all the way from Denver to come.  Over these many years we’ve been through a lot collectively – death of a spouse, a divorce, and now me with Alzheimer’s.  But it hasn’t changed our love or acceptance of one another.  Our friendships are stronger than ever.

Real, true friends are important.  Cherish those relationships.  Nurture them.  They can comfort you in some tough times – even Alzheimer’s.

A friend knows the song in my heart and sings it to me when my memory fails.     ~     ~ Donna Roberts

~ Barbara Cheek Johnson is a journalist living with early-stage Alzheimer’s~

Johnson, Zacharias, Hein

(left) Barbara Cheek Johnson, Lynne Ebert Zacharias, Jeannie Minikel Hein


  1. You are truly blessed to have supportive family and friends. I’ve always had a hard time with making friends and my family gives me 1% support. I am grateful for the 1% but wish I had friends and a supportive family. I don’t feel “poor me”. It’s just hard going throught it basically alone. I have early dementia.

    • Hi. Thanks for your comment. You shouldn’t have to go through this alone and we may have a few ideas for you. Call our 24/7 Helpline at 800.272.3900 to see about groups in your community that provide support to persons with early dementia. Many communities are supporting monthly Memory Cafe’s where you can connect with others or early-stage support groups. Our AlzConnected message boards are also a great way to connect with people going through a similar situation and you can connect with people online any time, day or night:

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