A dentist who helped thousands of people smile at his surgery in Peterborough has given a charity a huge reason to beam with delight in memory of his wife.
Malcolm Joyce handed a cheque for £1m to the Alzheimer’s Society – one of the largest the charity has received from a single donor in its 37-year history.
The gesture comes just one year after the death of his wife Jean, who battled dementia in the final years of their marriage.
Malcolm, (81), remains well known in Peterborough, having worked at a practice at 150 Park Road in the city from 1962 to March 2000.
He was a prominent figure in the theatre world, appearing in numerous Mask Theatre productions at the Key Theatre over several years in the 70s.
Meanwhile, Jean worked behind the scenes on sets and costumes.
Malcolm said: “Jean was a very kind, warm-hearted person and did a lot of voluntary work. She helped out as an assistant at St George’s School, working with children who had Down’s Syndrome and other learning disabilities.
“She had a real talent for being able to relate to such children. She also spent time working for the charity Ananta, which helped teenagers who were homeless or experiencing other problems.”
Alzheimer’s Society staff were stunned when Malcolm, who now lives in Tynemouth, North Tyneside, contacted them to offer the huge sum.
Jean was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease in 2008, but Malcolm suspected all was not well long before then.
He said: “Jean was showing signs of memory loss and confusion a couple of years before we were given an actual diagnosis. “I remember being on a plane to Australia in 2006 and she turned to me and asked if she could take a shower, so I suspected all was not well then.
“Eventually it became obvious. I’d see her attempting seemingly simple household tasks that she clearly wasn’t capable of doing – and when I’d try to help she’d accuse me of treating her as if she were stupid.
“People have no idea how difficult it is to experience something like that – to watch someone you love go through such frustration.”
Malcolm looked after Jean for as long as possible before she moved into a care home, which became necessary after he was diagnosed with a life-limiting illness himself.
He said: “I was told I had bowel cancer four years ago, but compared with Jean’s condition that seemed relatively unimportant.”
Malcolm, who was married to Jean for 58 years, added: “Even though she seemed to have forgotten who I was, her emotional memory remained intact.
“I remember one time, quite close to the end, when I put my arm around her and pulled her close to me and she whispered ‘that’s nice’. That brought me some comfort.”
Malcolm hopes his donation will not only aid research but help people to cope with a dementia diagnosis by accessing support at the earliest opportunity.
He said: “If I can save just one couple from going through what we went through it will have been worth it.”