#VillaHeroes: Judy Volpato, a daughter’s love is forever
“To care for those who once cared for us is one of the highest honours.” – Tia Walker
Through the uncertain times of the COVID-19 pandemic, St. Joseph’s Villa has kept resident-family connection of the highest importance. Essential caregivers play an integral role in maintaining this connection and are imperative to the health and well-being of our residents during the pandemic. Each resident is granted two personal essential caregivers who are typically those close to their heart.
Judy Volpato is an essential caregiver for her mother, Alice, who has been a St. Joseph’s Villa resident since August 2020.
An everlasting friendship
Alice came to Hamilton in 1949 when she was only 16 years old. She left Prince Edward Island with just $50 in her pocket, a train ticket and a guitar case at her side.
The move was for a more prosperous future, and it was made easier by her older sister’s friend, Dottie, who helped get her settled into life in Hamilton. Dottie was also fairly new to the city, having just moved from PEI months prior. They quickly became best of friends, sharing a passion for music that bonded them through the years.
As they grew older, married and started families of their own, one thing remained untethered: their friendship. It was the kind of friendship that earns the title “Auntie” by each other’s children.
Now, nearly 70 years later, Alice and Dottie have been reunited and are now neighbours in their resident home area at the Villa, playing music together like the old days. The Villa’s admission team was instrumental in coordinating this reunion, making this beautiful story of two best friends come full circle.
The reunion also reconnects Judy with Dottie’s daughters, Sheila and Sharon, who are Dottie’s caregivers at the Villa. They grew up together, but life became busy with their own children, they grew apart. This reunion has once again reminded them of the bond their families share.
Caregiving with honour
“Growing up with Alice as a mother was a blessing,” as Judy describes. It was the kind of love and parenting that makes a child grow strong yet compassionate. And though she admits to not having taken everything after her mother, she prides herself on the many things she did.
“I can’t say I took after my mom’s musical talents,” Judy laughs. “But Mum was such a hard worker and seeing her work so hard while we were growing up, knowing that it was to give us a better life – it rubbed off on my siblings and me.”
Judy, who worked at Camco for over 30 years before retirement, accredits her work ethic to her mother. She now feels privileged to look after her mom and is helped by her brother, Barry, who acts as Alice’s other caregiver. They’ve relied on each other throughout the pandemic, taking turns visiting their mother at the Villa.
“Barry has been tremendous through all of this,” Judy explains. “We’ve leaned on each other so much throughout the pandemic and have taken turns visiting Mum. We’re both here almost every day, so it helps us both take the time we need for ourselves.”
And though it may be challenging, Judy wouldn’t change it for the world.
“Mum was always there for me,” says Judy. “I trusted her with anything and everything. She always knew a remedy and the right advice. I feel honoured to care for her the same way she did for me.”
To Better Days Ahead
Judy and Alice long for the brighter days that await past this pandemic. Alice, to reunite with her husband, Buddy. Buddy and Alice have been through it all. They were brought together by hard times in both of their spouses’ passings, and they decided to make the best of the time they had left, together.
“Buddy is such a great support for my mom and just loves her dearly,” Judy gleams. “Buddy has a passion for music as well. They always played together, Buddy on the accordion, Mum on the keys or guitar. They made quite the duo. She prays they can play together again one day soon.”
This love of life and music is a beacon of inspiration for their family. And the musical talents weren’t lost on Judy’s two sons, Justin and Steve, who are both gifted musicians. Justin has pursued his passion for music, forming bands and following his dreams as a singer-songwriter. Steve, who was always more reserved with his musical talents, surprised his grandmother with a video of him singing and playing guitar.
“That’s a memory my mom holds near and dear to her heart. It was the first time she’s ever heard him sing, and she didn’t realize that he, too, is a gifted musician. She was in tears. Seeing her grandchildren play music is one of her greatest joys.”
When asked what brings Judy the most joy, she didn’t skip a beat.
“Seeing Mum happy. She deserves all the happiness. She is my hero.”