A Silly Hat in a Sea of Flowers

Tony Bouwense was always a jokester.


So it was no surprise to Heritage Life Story Funeral Home Co-Owner Matt Hollebeek that his favorite uncle would give him a gag gift for Christmas years ago. Tony, a traveling salesman, decided to gift a bunch of silly hats (swag from a trade show) to the family.


“He was such a fun guy to be around,” said Matt, donning the same hat at the Walk for Alzheimer’s on Saturday. “I thought it would be perfect to wear it today in his honor. This is a symbolic way to remember him.”

Tony died of Alzheimer’s in 2010.

“I wish we could rewrite the last chapter of Uncle Tony’s story,” Matt said. “That’s not possible for him, but we hope that one day we can do that for other families we serve. That’s why we’re here today.”

A team from Heritage gathered along with more than 1,300 community members at Millennium Park to raise awareness and funds for Alzheimer’s care, support and research. Sponsors and teams raised more than $235,000.

“It’s shocking how many families we serve who are impacted by this awful disease,” said Heritage Life Story Funeral Home Co-Owner Lee Karelse. “That’s why we decided to co-sponsor the Promise Garden, to give participants a hands-on experience to remember and honor those living with Alzheimer’s and their caregivers.”


The Promise Flowers represented the diverse motivations of Saturday’s walkers:

  • Blue for those diagnosed with Alzheimer’s.

  • Yellow for those supporting or caring for someone with Alzheimer’s/dementia.

  • Purple for those who have lost someone to Alzheimer’s/dementia.

  • Orange for those who support the cause and the Alzheimer’s Association vision of world without Alzheimer’s.

After selecting a flower, participants wrote messages to their loved ones on the petals and then planted it in the Promise Garden as they began the walk.

“This is just another way we are helping families in our community remember and share the story of their loved ones,” Matt said.