With both hands, Gene Barnes clutches the neatly bound book. It is wrapped in a deep purple dust jacket on which shine the gold letters of its title, The Story of a Courageous Lady. He softly turns the pages that preserve so many of the stories and photographs from the life of his treasured wife, Beverly.
Gene assembled the book himself after Beverly died in 2006. It is an especially fitting tribute since the couple first met while browsing a book carousel at a Christian singles conference in Seattle in 1981. Eight weeks later they married. For the next 25 years, Gene, a teacher born in Kansas but raised in Washington, and Beverly, a native of Nova Scotia who moved to British Columbia after college, never stopped making memories together. They loved biking, hiking, skiing and, especially, traveling.
In 2001, their life took an unwelcome turn: Beverly was diagnosed with leukemia. "After about six months [of treatment], we were in remission," Gene remembers, "and then we ... began living our lives again. We even took a couple trips." In 2005, they added another memorable adventure, completing the 206-mile Seattle to Portland bike ride, something Beverly had always wanted to do.
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But by the end of that year, the cancer returned, so Beverly and Gene came to Fred Hutch in Seattle so she could receive a bone marrow transplant. Things went well for the first few months after the treatment, until complications emerged from a side effect called graft-vs.-host disease, in which the donor cells attack the patient's healthy tissues.
"It was a trying time ... and of course that is part of the reason for me wanting to make a donation, a legacy," Gene says. He decided to name Fred Hutch as the beneficiary of a commercial annuity, to make it possible for researchers to create safer, less arduous therapies - to help them start new cures.
"I noticed that a lot of good things have occurred here [at Fred Hutch], a lot of very important people, doctors, have been here and done some very important work, and when you have Nobel Prize winners, well, you know that something good is going on here."
The other reason behind both Gene's planned gift and the biography he lovingly crafted, which he's donated to the Fred Hutch library, is no less heartfelt: "I just want other people to be able to share a little bit of what Bev was really like," he says. "I want the memory of Beverly to live on."
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