Dennis "Red" Keusch of Ireland received a phone call Jan. 5, 1997, at 3:30 p.m. to inform him of his diagnosis of Parkinson’s disease, a disorder of the central nervous system that largely affects one’s movement. He pushed himself to keep going on with his life the best he could manage until his body gave out on him and he died 15 years after his diagnosis at age 65 of complications caused by the disease.
While his daughter Brandi Buck of Jasper made a phone call to Red's cardiologist to ask about excessive swelling in his feet, Red lay on his living room floor alongside his 10-month-old granddaughter Maggie Buck. Red struggled with both back and hip pain believed to be caused by the excessive movement of his body stemming from Parkinson's disease. He often found that lying on the floor and stretching could alleviate some of the pain.
Trips to the doctor’s office for Red turned into a family event of sorts as his wife and two daughters would often accompany him when available. His daughter Brooke Kendall, left, his wife, Bonnie, and his daughter Brandi Buck, all of Jasper, attended his appointment with cardiologist Dr. Joshua Leonard at Heartland Cardiology Associates in Jasper.
Taking pills was something Red said he hated doing after he was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease. “Now I have to in order to exist,” he said as he sorted his pills. Red was taking more than 20 pills a day to help with the various health complications caused by Parkinson’s disease.
The Scrambler carnival ride has been one of the highlights of the Jasper Strassenfest for many years for Red. Joining him on the ride during last year’s Strassenfest were two of his granddaughters, Merin Buck, 5, right, and her sister Maci, 8, of Jasper.
As often as his body would cooperate, Red would join a group of seniors who meet Tuesdays and Fridays for a bowling league at Dubois Lanes in Huntingburg. Red used his walker to position himself and maintain his balance before heaving the 16-pound ball down the lane. Red bowled a 124 the first game, but had the strength to bowl only an 82 the second game.
Red learned how to fall in a way that would lessen the blow and chances of injury if he fell when struggling with his walking. He tried to get back to his feet after falling in his front yard while putting up Christmas decorations.
Walking became a problem for Red because of his Parkinson’s disease. He often used a walker, motorized scooter or wheelchair to get around on days when he struggled to walk. One way the family found to aid him with walking was to grab him around his belt from behind to offer him support like his daughter Brooke Kendall of Jasper did as they walked around downtown Jasper during Strassenfest.
Staying as active as possible was a priority for Red, but the daily reality of Parkinson’s disease was that his body would often shut down for varying periods of time and render him immobile. “The thing I hate about it is I can’t plan anything,” he said about not knowing when his body would shut down. He tried to be prepared for those moments by having medication ready on a table next to his reclining chair in his living room. His dog Gus joined him in the chair, which is also where Red slept at night since he struggled to get comfortable in a bed.
Brooke Kendall of Jasper, left, and her sister, Brandi Buck of Jasper, right, shared the story of their father's journey with Parkinson’s disease with those at the meeting of the Parkinson’s Disease Support Group in the Medical Arts Building in Jasper. Red disliked public speaking because of speech problems caused by the disease, so his daughters spoke on his behalf.
Physical therapy assistant Mindy Bueltel of Jasper assisted Red with unbuttoning his shirt before a therapy session in his room at Memorial Hospital and Health Care Center in Jasper.
Physical therapy assistant Mindy Bueltel of Jasper tried to comfort Red and tell him there was no need to apologize for his struggles while she worked with him in his room at Memorial Hospital and Health Care Center in Jasper. Red became emotional as his body struggled with the therapy session and the idea of being limited in his movement.
For nearly nine hours, an estimated 1,200 visitors passed through Becher & Kluesner Downtown Chapel in Jasper to pay their respects to Red's wife, Bonnie, and the rest of his family. “He didn't know a stranger,” Red's daughter Brooke Kendall said about her father.
As a memorial to Red, who died of complications of Parkinson’s disease, his family gathered to paint a fence around a young red sunset maple tree that was planted in the pasture on the family property. Kash Kendall, 2, left, and his cousins Merin Buck, 5, and her sister Maci, all of Jasper, were the first to begin painting the fence red.