Since Pat’s ALS diagnosis last March, there have been a lot of changes in his life. But one thing that will never change is the love he and his wife, Hariett, have for each other.
Douglas “Pat” Mesker and Cecile “Hariett” Mesker met at Beaumont High School back in 1959. Pat, who played the trumpet, sat in the row right behind Hariett, who played the saxophone, in their high school band class.
“When I got up and walked across the room the whole band stopped. The director paused because the whole band was off, because [Pat] had stopped,” Hariett says.
Pat says it was love at first sight, and told Hariett he was going to marry her on their second date. After three years of dating, they did eventually decide to get married, and have been together for 56 years.
Soon after they were married, they started their family of four boys—Michael, Stephen, Robert and Daniel. Now, they have ten grandchildren and six great grandchildren, with one on the way.
Although they grew up in the St. Louis area, they currently live in Elsberry, Missouri. They’re both retired—Pat spent over 30 years as a truck driver and Hariett taught real estate, worked as a broker’s assistant and ran her own real estate company. In 2002 they opened a food pantry together that lasted for 15 years. Pat is also the president of the Elsberry Historic Preservation Society.
Although their family spread out and live apart from each other, they remain close-knit and visit often, something Pat says relieves a lot of the stress due to his ALS diagnosis.
Pat discovered he had ALS after a back surgery that he never recovered fully from in October 2017. He started noticing weakness in his legs and surgery seemed like the solution. After several rounds of physical therapy following the procedure with no improvement, it was recommended they see a neurologist. The neurologist confirmed it was ALS in March 2018.
They’re the kind of couple that finishes each other’s sentences and make playful jabs at each other often. Hariett says since the diagnosis, their love has only gotten stronger, most notably they’ve become more affectionate towards each other.
“He finally tells me that he loves me. Never used to do that. I’d say ‘I love you’ and he’d say ‘me too’,” Hariett says.
Hariett says she sees this experience as a way to give back to her husband for all of the things he’s done for her, like staying by her side through several health complications and providing for their family over the years.
“I said to him, ‘what makes you think I don’t want to do this? You’ve taken care of me for 56 years and finally I’m going to take care of you,’” Hariett says. “That’s what we’re here for.”
Pat and Hariett recently submitted a video for the Voice Your Love campaign, which you can view here:
Their advice for others going through ALS is to keep the faith, keep your family close, and remember your job as a spouse is to love each other as much as you can. According to the Meskers, staying by each other’s side is what keeps them going.