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Although he was 300-plus miles away in a Nashville facility, country star Glen Campbell's presence was felt when about 25 of his relatives recently gathered with 225 others for the dedication of a new Alzheimer's and dementia care center, Memory Care of Little Rock at Good Shepherd.

Campbell, a native of Billstown, was the seventh son of 12 children. His sisters were among those touring the residential facility, now offering care for up to 74 patients.

"They are naming a wing here after Glen," his sister Barbara Frazier told Paper Trails. His other sisters Sandy Brink and Jane Rather sang "Amazing Grace" a capella and shared stories about their brother -- like the time years ago when Campbell, homesick while performing in Las Vegas, called home and offered to pay airfare and for hotel rooms for any relatives who went to visit him. An astounding 72 (!) took him up on the offer.

His wife, Kim, spoke about her relationship with Glen -- from their first date in 1981 (a blind one set up by Glen's banjo player, Carl Jackson) to their current journey with Alzheimer's.

Now in late stage six of the disease, Campbell has lost the ability to communicate.

"But he's always trying to tell a joke and winds up cracking himself up, which makes us laugh and that brings him joy," Kim said.

Amid the sadness and struggle, Kim looks for humor.

"We first noticed something wasn't right in 2009 when he became really OCD. Every day, he would come into the bathroom, show us how much toothpaste he thought we should use, saying, 'If you only use this much, think of how much money we would save.'"

Campbell also became obsessed with how family members parked their cars, followed his wife around the house and got lost returning from a nearby golf course before being diagnosed in 2011 with mild cognitive impairment. At the time, he was about to begin the album that became Ghost on the Canvas.

The Country Music Hall of Fame member's family worried when he was about to begin a five-week tour to promote the album.

"I asked him, 'What are you going to do if you forget the lyrics, or say or do something embarrassing?' and he said, 'I'll just tell them I have Alzheimer's!' And we said, 'OK, if that's what you want to do, we will support you,'" Kim said.

"He's battled alcoholism, drugs, and gave his life to the Lord and has been honest with all of that."

After revealing his Alzheimer's diagnosis, the idea for the documentary Glen Campbell: I'll be Me began to take shape.

"We worried 'What if nobody shows up?' But from that very first show, the people were there to cheer him on and root for him. Afterward, he was so elated, gave me a big hug, and said, 'I can't believe how kind people are.'"

Little Rock artist Stephano presented Kim with an acrylic on canvas of her husband to take home; he'll create another one for the center.

And so Campbell will be there, his smiling face in shades of gray, save for his brilliant blue eyes twinkling brightly.

Contact Linda S. Haymes at (501) 399-3636 or lhaymes@arkansasonline.com

SundayMonday on 12/27/2015

Print Headline: Campbell 'present' at LR center

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