The first time they met it was all business. Ira joined Claire’s law firm in 1985 and they weren’t crazy about each other. Eventually, they became friends, and after they both found themselves single again, they married in 2006. They expected to continue working and to travel the world together.
Three years later, they got the news: Ira was diagnosed with Parkinson’s. Despite this new and uncertain road, neither of them crumpled in the face of it. “Ira was willing to do anything to slow the progression of his Parkinson’s,” Claire told me. He and Claire jumped into PD-oriented exercise classes, Hubbard Street Dance Company’s Parkinson’s Dance project, and improv classes with Second City. When Ira later started attending 4 weekly classes sponsored by the Parkinson’s program at Northwestern Medicine Lake Forest Hospital, the classes were so popular that they had to arrive at the facility at 5am on the first day of each registration period to make sure Ira got in. Still, they showed up bright and early and dove into the classes.
Ira and Claire firmly believed in learning as much as possible about Parkinson’s. They attended seminars and symposiums throughout the Chicago area. They both agreed – the more you know, the better prepared you are.
In their search for more, Claire and Ira heard about PMD Alliance right before the pandemic. “My first reaction?” she admitted, laughing, was, “What do we need another Parkinson’s organization for?” And, so, she and Ira continued on, not paying much mind to PMD Alliance. But it caught Claire’s eye, again, during the pandemic. “That’s when PMD Alliance’s online programming really took off,” she told me. “We got into the Indu rhythm,” she said, referring to Indu Subramanian, MD’s wHolisitic series, and they were impressed by Dr. Subramanian’s virtual rolodex – the array of experts she called on to educate attendees in her online series. “We really liked what you were doing,” Claire said. “Between the beginning of the pandemic and now, we attended more than 40 online programs with PMD Alliance.”
And, so, when charitable giving time rolled around in December 2020, she and Ira asked themselves: who has carried us through this last year? For them, one of the answers was PMD Alliance.
The problem was – how to give back? “Ira was 86,” Claire told me, “In 2020 the required minimum distribution from his IRA was suspended because of the pandemic. We turned to our investment advisor and he suggested a gift of stock.” Claire was surprised this could work: “We could do that?” she said, surprised. Claire called both gifts of stock and Qualified Charitable Distributions (QCD) a “win-win.” QCD gives the chosen charity full benefits of your stock while also offering tax advantages to the donor.
I asked Claire why she and Ira chose to support PMD Alliance when they’ve been involved with many PD organizations throughout the years. “I really like the fact that PMD Alliance is focused on the people who are dealing with PD,” she said. “I like your level of enthusiasm.”
Claire and Ira made their QCD early this year at the suggestion of their investment advisor. Unexpectedly, Ira died a few weeks later, in early November. In his obituary, Claire and Ira’s children generously asked friends to give to PMD Alliance to honor his legacy.
“What’s one trait of Ira’s that’s most beloved to you?” I asked her in a nod to his life and legacy. “Oh, there were so many,” she answered. “He was incredibly bright, he had a steel trap mind – and a memory that’s always been better than mine,” she laughed. “He was funny and wonderful about expressing his love. It was a joy to be with him for all the time I had.”
In the midst of her grief and “still reeling from everything,” Claire is grounding herself by talking daily with family and one or more members of her great support network, walking outside, still taking Zoom exercise classes including Dance for PD classes, and striving to read 50 pages or more each day.
At the end of our conversation, I thanked Claire for offering me her time and letting me witness some of her and Ira’s story. “I’ve been reflecting,” she said. Processing, taking it all in. And, still, showing up.
Thank you, Claire, for letting us walk alongside.
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