David Jimenez spent the final day of his life the way he enjoyed so many others — with a golf club in his hand.
Jimenez, 74, died of renal failure on Oct. 20 at The Arbors of Savannah Commons, a specialized-care facility where he lived for the final three years of his 14-year battle with Alzheimer’s disease. He died just two weeks after Lost Plantation Golf Club hosted the third annual David Jimenez Open to support the Alzheimer’s Association Coastal Region.
With the help of 97 golfers and 38 volunteers, this year’s tournament raised $14,100. Jimenez’s wife Arlene presented the check on Friday.
“This event has raised over $30,000 in three years. That’s a big deal,” said Deborah Heddendorf, development director for the Alzheimer’s Association Coastal Region.
“We cannot say enough about Rincon and Effingham County, the care and support and love the people here have shown,” said Arlene, who moved to Effingham with David eight years ago.
Two of Arlene’s closest friends are Joe Fletcher, the co-chair of the David Jimenez Open, and his wife Dianne. A shared interest in golf helped Joe develop a close bond with David, who played professionally on the PGA Tour and European Senior Tour.
“Joe loves golf and David’s life was golf, so they started playing together early on when David could still play (with his illness),” Arlene said. “Joe would say, ‘We’re going to keep David on the golf course as long as possible.’”
David was diagnosed on Oct. 16 with “horrendous kidney failure,” Arlene said, and doctors gave him only three or four days to live. The Fletchers were with Arlene for every hour until David’s death — “Dianne all night, Joe all day,” she said.
On the morning of Oct. 20, Joe was at David’s bedside at The Arbors, holding his friend’s hand. He noticed something very familiar about David’s grip.
As Arlene recalled, “Joe said, ‘Arlene, come here, look — he’s got his putter grip. He’s holding my finger like a putter.’”
Since golf clubs and David are never far from each other, Arlene grabbed a putter that was handy. Joe gently pulled his finger from David’s grasp and Arlene slid the putter into her husband’s hand.
“He held that putter all day Sunday and, when he passed away Sunday night, he was holding his putter,” Arlene said. “And we’re saying, ‘What is more perfect? This is David.’”
Five days after David’s death, Arlene presented the tournament proceeds to the Alzheimer’s Association Coastal Region. The association relies on donations to fund Alzheimer’s care, research, awareness and advocacy.
“We will continue (the tournament),” Arlene said. “It’ll always be known as the David Jimenez Open.”
Along with her gratitude to the golfers, tournament committee and volunteers, Arlene thanked her church, St. Luke’s Episcopal in Rincon, for its support. St. Luke’s will memorialize David with an interment ceremony and reception Nov. 10 at 10:45 a.m.
Though family and friends miss David, they take comfort in the thought that he is now in a better place.
“He’s not living with Alzheimer’s anymore,” Arlene said.