Many memories have slowly faded away for Dolly Bauer since she started her battle with dementia in 2006. What has never left is her love of Wisconsin sports.
When she first arrived at Azura Memory Care in Eau Claire four years ago, her daughter, Amy Rohrscheib, loaded up an iPod with songs that brought her back to old times. When “On Wisconsin” or “Roll out the Barrell” popped up, Dolly would start clapping away.
“She was a huge Badger fan and Packer fan,” said Ted Bauer, Dolly’s son. “I would say her favorite sport to watch was basketball. … She knew the game, so she could tell the refs when they were going wrong and sometimes right.”
Amy was the one of the main drivers in Dolly’s love for the Badgers. She suited up for the women’s basketball team from 1988 to 1991, choosing to play closer to home so her family could make the trip to see her play.
“A lot of them were always at games,” Rohrscheib said. “I was used to having family around all the time.”
With Dolly’s die-hard fandom came a passion for Wisconsin’s lovable mascot, Bucky Badger.
She dreamed of one day combining two of her favorite things, Wisconsin and dancing, by polkaing with Bucky himself.
On Sunday, her dream came true.
The iconic mascot made the trip up to Eau Claire this weekend prepared to boogie. He held hands with Dolly as they danced away in the middle of the back room of the Azura building on Damon Street, her large family cheering her on as they watched.
Dolly Bauer suffers from dementia, but she still is able to hold onto memories of watching her daughter play basketball at Wisconsin. It was her lifelong dream to dance with Bucky Badger, and today it came true. Don’t mind me, I’m just in the corner crying. 😭 pic.twitter.com/WTAcI5tUCV— Jack Goods (@GoodsOnSports) March 31, 2019
It was tough work to keep up with Bucky’s quick feet, but at 86, it’s impressive Dolly was grooving at all.
“Dancing, that’s one of the things that brings her back,” Rohrscheib said. “To see her feet start to go was priceless because she hasn’t done that in so long.”
Of course, there was only one song that could be played for a dance like this. “On Wisconsin” blared from a phone speaker held close to Dolly.
“I didn’t know she could dance anymore, so that was pretty exciting,” Ted said. “You come here and you leave a little depressed. Not today.”
A pillar of Azura’s focus on helping to create joy for those in its care is the MOSIAC Dreams Program, which prioritizes facilitating moments that fulfill wishes or bring an old tradition back to life. Dolly wasn’t able to go experience many of her former passions like golf or bowling, so connecting to her love with the Badgers seemed like a perfect plan.
Initially there was some thought of bringing her to a Wisconsin game, but that didn’t seem realistic with her condition. Instead, in a way, they brought a Wisconsin game to her. The process was sped up since Dolly is now in hospice care.
“This is the first time Bucky Badger has been in our home, and it is a lot of fun,” said Paula Gibson, regional director of communication and engagement for Azura. “It’s wonderful to see. Dolly in her own way is recognizing the people that are here and loving it.”
The experience became a pseudo family reunion and a walk down memory lane. Rohrscheib was wearing her jersey from her Wisconsin playing days and her daughter was wearing her mom’s practice jersey. Ted wore the sweater their late father donned when he’d go see Rohrscheib play.
“Just to have the family together, because that’s what my parents created,” Rohrscheib said of the importance of the event, holding back tears. “Almost everybody’s here. Like 30 people came to do this, which you don’t get with many families.”
It created a moment they will never forget.
“We try to get together a lot,” Ted said. “What better way than this?”