When 95 year old Johnnie Dimas lost his full-time caregiver and wife of 67 years, there didn’t seem to be much choice other than to move into a nursing home. But his grandson had different plans for him!
He moved his grandfather from Illinois to live with him and his wife in sunny Arizona two years ago. The couple, Roger and Jo, decided the trio should embark on an epic journey round America in their motor home, visiting lots of the places on Johnnie's bucket list.
Knowing that time was limited, they explored and experienced as much as they could together and, most importantly, scheduled visits to several World War II museums where Johnnie was “treated like a rock star.” It was clearly deeply cathartic for him to be able to process so much he had experienced as a young man, having enlisted in the U.S. Marines at the age of 17.
"It was such an honor to see how people respected his service in WWII, and how fascinated they were by him and his stories. As we walked down the street people would stop Grandpa, shake his hand and thank him for his service. They didn’t often stop long enough to see how Johnnie would always well up with emotion and gratitude for their kind words, it touched him so deeply every time," Jo told GNN.
Their journey took in Nevada, Texas, Arizona and Louisiana. "I can honestly say that caring for Grandpa was the hardest and most rewarding thing we have ever done," Jo said. "Caring for someone 24/7 is a very difficult job, but it also teaches you to be selfless."
Eventually, the trio returned home to Arizona and started planning their next adventure together. Sadly Johnnie, now 96, passed away. Their next planned trip was to visit Graceland, the home of his biggest idol - Elvis. He was so excited to go, but his deteriorating health wouldn’t allow for it. But in a happy, final coincidence, Roger and Jo realized that Grandpa died the same day Elvis did, 43 years later - and he would have been tickled by that.