Parkinson's disease leads woman to stylish hobby

By

SEYMOUR, Ind. (AP) — Evelyn Bunch was never much into fashion.

Married for 62 years, the 82-year-old Seymour resident spent most of her life as a homemaker and stay-at-home mother.

But since being diagnosed with Parkinson's disease almost four years ago, she has been encouraged by her doctor to pick up a hobby to help battle depression that often sets in with the disease.

Bunch chose to lavishly, yet inexpensively, dress up mannequins and dress forms that now inhabit the rooms of her home off Freeman Avenue on the city's south side.

She'll find deals at Goodwill and family members will give her old fur coats. In turn, she'll change out the dress forms, styling them the way she wants.

Sequined blouses donated by friends, a 40-year-old vintage wedding dress worn by her daughter and strings of pearls bought for a dollar at thrift shops are just some of the bargain beauties draping the forms.

"It gives me an outlook, I guess you'd say," Bunch told The Tribune (http://bit.ly/18FctB0 ). "If I buy something, I can't hardly wait to get home and put it on them; I can't hardly get my coat on quick enough."

So far, Bunch has two mannequins and 14 dress forms, each with shoes to match and some with hats, coats and jewelry.

All the dress forms have names, almost like friends.

"People give me things, you know that I like, and then I name it after them," she said.

Some are even child-size, sporting the clothes worn by her grandchildren when they were baptized.

In her kitchen, she has one dress form by the refrigerator and another by the doorway wearing her mother and sister's old checkered dresses and carrying aprons.

"That's where they always were," Bunch said. "My mom was always cooking and baking as a homemaker, and my sister was the same way."

She's working on her first male mannequin, trying to figure out how to keep its pants from falling down.

"It keeps me busy and keeps me thinking," Bunch said.

Parkinson's disease is a chronic and progressive movement disorder, and the symptoms continue and worsen over time.

According to the Parkinson's Disease Foundation, the cause is unknown, and although there is presently no cure, there are treatment options such as medication and surgery to manage its symptoms.

Today, as many as 1 million Americans live with Parkinson's disease and about 60,000 Americans are diagnosed with it each year, not including those who go undiagnosed.

For Bunch, Parkinson's does not cause her to shake as it can for many patients, but it does affect the movement of her legs and her balance.

"I can't make one step by myself," she said. "I have to use some kind of help."

She relies on a walker and takes medication to help her sleep at night because of leg aches, but she refuses to use a wheelchair just yet.

"I don't want to give up," Bunch said. "If I get in that wheelchair, I'm totally done for."

With the help of her husband, Jim Bunch, she said she gets out just enough to pick up pieces for her dress forms and goes to church on Sundays at St. Ambrose Catholic Church.

She recalls how she met her husband in New Albany, where she grew up.

He was her neighbor across the street, and she started to check her mailbox more frequently after she noticed him.

"I thought, 'Hmm, he's kind of cute,'" she said with a grin. "I made a habit of going to the mailbox when he went to the mailbox."

The two were married 62 years ago, had two children — a boy and a girl — and moved to Seymour for his job at Duke Energy, from which he's retired.

She said her husband has been nothing but encouraging with her hobby, offering to go with her to stores and stand beside her to offer her balance while she dresses the collection of forms and mannequins.

"He's the best guy ever, and he's never turned me down for anything," she said. "If it wasn't for him, I don't know where I'd be."

Jim Bunch said he doesn't mind the sparkling pieces decorating his home and pokes fun at the dress forms.

"I've been trying to get Social Security for each one of them," he joked.

Like many people, Jim Bunch had only heard of Parkinson's disease because of movie and TV star Michael J. Fox.

"The Back to the Future" star was diagnosed in 1991 and since has become an advocate for the disease, funding research and creating awareness.

Evelyn Bunch's onset of the disease was gradual, and the couple was unaware of the impact when she was diagnosed.

"Nobody in our family had it," she said.

She said her doctor at Indiana University Medical Center in Indianapolis looked into brain surgery to fix some of her troubles but decided it would not work, considering how deep they would have to operate.

She now has to live with the disease, possibly facing future health decline from it.

"They said it wouldn't go away," she said. "There is no cure. So you just live with it."

That's when she picked up the hobby in fashion, following after a friend who had a similar interest.

Wearing a navy blue sweatshirt with flowers across the chest, she stressed that she's never been interested in fashion but enjoys the hobby and looking at her creations.

Although the hobby was started to fight Parkinson's-related depression, she said she doesn't become depressed.

"No, I'm not depressed ... but I get aggravated because I can't do what I want," she said.

Evelyn Bunch finds ways to make sure her dress forms look good and changes them often. This year, she's trying to use more color and sparkle.

"I'm like Dolly Parton," she said with a laugh.

Bunch said she plans to continue her hobby for years to come. The only problem is finding room for them all.

"I'd like to have more, but I don't know where I'd put them," she said. "Whenever I bring one in I say, 'Where am I going to put that one at?'"

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Information from: The (Seymour) Tribune, http://www.tribtown.com

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