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A love that defies dementia: the inspiring story of Gay and Jimmy

Valentine’s Day might be all about cards and chocolates for some, but for childhood sweethearts Gay and Jimmy McNamara, Valentine’s Day is all about being with the one you love for as long as you can.

Gay, 79, first spotted Jimmy 63 years ago at the Gympie Show – and it was love at first sight.

“I remember spotting Jimmy from afar and being in awe of how much he resembled Elvis Presley and James Dean,” she said. “The second I got home I asked everyone I knew who that ‘good-looking boy’ was … the rest is history.”

Today, despite circumstances forcing them to live apart, the couple remains inseparable.

Jimmy and Gay
Gay and Jimmy shared their inspiring story with Channel 9 news on Valentine’s Day.

Gay travels daily from the family home in Zillmere to TriCare Stafford Lakes Aged Care Residence to visit her love, Jimmy, who is experiencing the early stages of dementia.

“I come at 8am each day, and we spend a few hours together, either watching TV together or just catching up,” Gay said. 

And while these circumstances aren’t what the pair are used to, nor what they would choose, they still manage to keep their romantic spark alive.

“Jimmy is a ‘garbage collector’ when it comes to romantic gifts – he keeps everything,” said Gay with a smile. 

“He still has a box filled with the dozens of love letters we wrote each other back in the day, insisting on passing them on to generations to come.

The most treasured Valentine’s gift I ever received from Jimmy is a diamond heart-shaped necklace he and his brother chipped in and bought me for my 15th birthday.  I’ve worn it for the last 60 years and will continue to do so, so Jimmy is always by my side.


When Jimmy’s health took a turn last year, he and Gay investiged their options and decided TriCare’s Stafford Lakes Aged Care Residence would be the best place for him to be. 

The 24-hour care gives Gay peace of mind that he’s safe and secure, and it’s easy for her to visit, being just around the corner from the couple’s North Brisbane home.

“We’ve had a wonderful life, spent a lot of time travelling and seeing the world. Being huge Elvis fans, we’ve visited Graceland and have plenty of cherished memories to look back on,” Gay said.

Although he finds it more challenging to communicate these days, Jimmy’s cheeky sense of humour still shines through, and his snooker skills haven’t left him either.

“I still give the young ones a run for their money [on the pool table]?” Jimmy smiled.

“Our children, grandchildren and great grandchildren love playing pool when they come to visit, it’s something we can do to pass the time,” Gay added.

That family connection is so important to the McNamara’s that the extended family pulled together to donate a pool table to the TriCare facility. 

“The family love visiting, and Jimmy really enjoyed teaching the grandchildren the skills. Our littlest grandson, who’s only five, loves coming after school and playing a game with Grandpa – he’s certainly got the competitive McNamara genes!” Gay said.

Facility Manager at Stafford Lakes Aged Care Residence, Sandra Finnen, said the introduction of the pool table into the communal area has been popular with many of the residents.

“It brings them out of their rooms and down here for some activity and friendly competition,” she said.

Those early courting days may feel like a long time ago now, but Jimmy and Gay still love to spend quality time together, reminiscing about their incredible, decades-long love story, and just being beside the one they love.

They shared their story with Channel 9 news for Valentines Day.

Thanks to the McNamara family for their generous donation, which will bring joy and fun to so many. We at TriCare feel privileged that we can play our small part in Gay and Jimmy’s love story.

You can learn more about TriCare Stafford Lakes by clicking here.