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Families of Mon Ami: Ralph and Claudie

Ralph and Claudie
Claudie cares for her husband, Ralph, who was diagnosed with Parkinson’s three years ago. Ralph and Claudie have lived full, beautiful lives, and Ralph wanted to capture their experiences in a memoir. Claudie wanted someone who could help him and entertain Ralph at the same time. When they found Madeline, Ralph’s Activity Companion, they found the answer to both of their desires.


How did you and Ralph meet?

We met at Stanford – I was teaching for a year and actually he was my boss. When I met him the first time I found him extremely handsome and his French was very good. But I had other friends, it was after Christmas. I was teaching the year 1964/1965. After Christmas he asked me for a date – the first date we had we were translating some French 16th century poet who was writing in Latin, we were translating in French. That’s why I had been hired at Stanford because Ralph’s chairman, the chairman of the Department, was writing a book on this poet and he did not know Latin very well and I did, so that was one of the reasons I was hired which changed my life forever.


What is your favorite thing about Ralph?

His sense of humor and his kindness – he is a very fun man, we still have a lot of fun and I think Madeline could tell you they laugh a lot when they do the memoir-in-progress.


How long have you two been married?

51 years. We have known each other for 53 years.


How did you find out about Mon Ami?

Ralph was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease or actually Parkinsonian symptoms 3 years ago. That means that he’s losing his ability to walk and sadly his mind is going. He had always wanted to write his memoir and this was a good time to start doing it but because he could not type anymore, I needed someone to be there to type for him and also someone who knew how to talk to him and make him talk. So I did not know how to go about it and one day I looked on the site of Stanford neighborhood – I was really lucky – the ad was for Madeline and she said there was a group of Stanford students who wanted to help people like Ralph and would come to the house and make them play or help them write their memoir. So I called her and it was wonderful, she came and it was love at first sight for me and for Ralph.

She’s such a wonderful person, a wonderful woman. She’s very bright, very loving, very sensitive – she has what we call in France, the intelligence of the heart – she has been really a blessing for us. Every Monday, we are expecting her at 4:00 and it’s a joy to have her. Ralph has been dictating his memoir and having a great time so that’s exactly what I wanted to achieve and she helps us doing it.


What do you like about these visits?

The visit helps Ralph reminiscing – reminiscing is very important for him because we have had such a wonderful life and he relives our life when he’s doing that and he’s very happy about remembering the travel we have done, the adventure we have had, and the children – everything that makes a life special and our life was very special.

I think it’s very beneficial to have a student come and help an older person because the energy that this young people have and the humor, the intelligence – they’re Stanford students — really helps greatly and they feel, they feel for the person, they want to do it. It’s not imposed, they volunteer to do it and that means they have a special quality that fulfills completely what someone would like to have in a person to help someone with these difficulties.

I loved the idea – I thought it was so special, I thought really all this endeavor is a special one.  I’m very proud of what you’re doing.


You can see Claudie describe her visit here.