Health & Family

Teaming up to honor loved ones who died of Alzheimer’s

John Moore and Lynn Ivey at The Ivey, an adult day care center in Charlotte. Moore has bought land for the Ivey and has made other investments that it put in strong shape for a possible expansion. A side benefit, Moore and Ivey fell in love.
John Moore and Lynn Ivey at The Ivey, an adult day care center in Charlotte. Moore has bought land for the Ivey and has made other investments that it put in strong shape for a possible expansion. A side benefit, Moore and Ivey fell in love. ogaines@charlotteobserver.com

He was a farm kid who became a successful businessman in Charlotte. She was banker who’d had enough.

Love, loss and land brought John Moore and Lynn Ivey together – and they’ve teamed up to create something neither could have ever envisioned.

Moore, son of a dairy farmer, didn’t expect to make millions. Milking cows each morning as a boy growing up in the 1940s and ’50s in Harmony, N.C. (population: 375) taught him the value of hard work. And that he didn’t want to milk cows for a living.

So he took night classes at Carolina Business College while working part-time at an electrical engineering firm in Charlotte. In 1975, he began his own electrical supply business.

Now 75, he started with little. “If I fudged my net worth, it might’ve been $40,000,” he said. “And that would’ve included my golf clubs and fishing rod.” His first year in business, he had sales of $1.6 million. By the time he sold Moore Electrical Supply in 1995, he had 140 employees and $58 million in annual sales.

In 1982, he bought 3.4 acres at Bland and Tryon streets in what’s now arguably the most booming part of town. When he sold his business, he kept his South End headquarters building, in spite of repeated offers to buy it. Finally this fall, when Beacon Properties offered him $10.2 million, he agreed to sell.

After caring for his wife, Brenda, during her eight-year battle with Alzheimer’s disease, his priorities had shifted. He was her primary caregiver after she was diagnosed in 2006 and learned first-hand about the importance of a support network – for both patient and family.

In 2011, he searched assisted living facilities in the area, but didn’t find any he liked. He felt no one could take better care of her than he could, so he bought a bigger house – anticipating they’d eventually need live-in help.

The only place that impressed him during his exhaustive search was The Ivey in the SouthPark area. But it offered only day care, and he felt Brenda would eventually need around-the-clock care. Although he never used the Ivey for her care, he said the staff’s attitude really stood out.

“Everyone appears to love their job,” he said. “They have very little turnover – just like I had at Moore Electric.”

Moore told Lynn Ivey, the founder and CEO, that if The Ivey offered 24-hour-a-day care, it would be right for Brenda. But The Ivey didn’t have space to accommodate that level of care. What they did have was a vacant lot next door. Ivey’s response: “If you buy the lot next door, we’ll build a 24-hour-a-day facility.”

Neither of them forgot that conversation.

Parallel paths

In 2004, Lynn Ivey, then 47 and single, had a thriving banking career. But in a tumultuous three months, she was told she’d have to lay off staff (during a 12,000-employee round of cuts), she learned her mom had Alzheimer’s. And, after a colleague didn’t show up for a business trip, she went to her home and found her dead.

“All of a sudden I realized: Life is short … and I wondered who would be checking on me?” she said.

Ivey took leave to care for her mom in Wilmington. But when that time was up, she said the universe was sending her signals it was time for a change. “I decided not to stay stuck,” she said. She opted for a severance package rather than returning to banking.

“I took all my savings to start the Ivey,” she said. She did it in honor of her mother, who died in 2006. Her dad now has vascular dementia, so she again finds herself in a caregiving role.

After Brenda Moore’s 2013 death, a distraught John Moore was looking for a way to honor her. His daughter had died 11 days before Brenda’s death, so he was grieving two losses. He found himself on Park South Drive, pulled into The Ivey parking lot and called Lynn Ivey from his car. He was ready to buy that lot. He wanted to help create the kind of place he envisioned for Brenda.

He paid $400,000 cash and gave the land to The Ivey for use in a possible expansion that would allow for occasional overnight stays by Ivey members. But that wasn’t the end of his generosity.

He also bought – for $4 million – the LLC responsible for running The Ivey, which became a nonprofit in 2009. His purchase leaves the center virtually debt-free. Now, Lynn Ivey and team are leading a capital campaign to raise funds to increase the level of care The Ivey offers. “John’s gift puts us on the road to sustainability,” Ivey said.

‘My faith has grown’

She’s come a long way from the uncertain days of 2004.

“My soul and spirit have evolved,” Ivey said of the “scary and rewarding” eight years she’s been an entrepreneur. “My faith has grown. Freeing myself from the stress of corporate America has allowed me to build a faith that we are all taken care of in the right way and at the right time.”

“Life happens as it’s supposed to,” Ivey, now 59, said.

She knows. Meeting John Moore didn’t just lead to good things for The Ivey. It led to happiness for Ivey herself. In the course of working together, she and Moore have fallen in love.

They both understand what it means to love and care for someone who’s slowly losing his identity. It softens you, makes you more empathetic. “John even learned to put on Brenda’s makeup for her,” Ivey marvels.

Of the sacrifices each happily made – and their blossoming relationship – Ivey said: “When you give back, life returns the favor.”

The Ivey

Lynn Ivey said The Ivey adult daycare center was founded in honor of her mother. Costs: One-time enrollment fee is $995, and $100 a day. The facility at 6030 Park South Drive is open 10 hours a day, five days a week. “We offer nursing, delicious food, licensed therapy, camaraderie and friendship,” she said. “Being here keeps our members’ brains active – and provides a break from constant caregiving for the family.”

The Ivey is state-certified for 100 people each day, but Ivey likes to cap it at about 50 to 55 people a day.

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