Linda Clegg and Tom Waldrop were an unlikely couple. Tom played in bands in the 60s in San Francisco, studied sociology and music, and settled into a corporate communications career in Silicon Valley. Linda was born in South Africa, and always wanted to be a nurse. In 1978, at age 27 – after eight years of cardiac-care nursing in Johannesburg, she came to Texas on a one-year contract. She wanted to experience America after seeing a photo spread in National Geographic. She and other nurses would travel on days off, by airplane or Greyhound bus.
Linda met someone, whom she decided to marry and then remained in the United States. She first moved to Massachusetts then to California. The couple later divorced. Then, in 1984, Tom and Linda were introduced by the minister of the United Methodist church in Los Gatos, California.
Tom still wonders how he and Linda, who grew up halfway around the world, could unknowingly be destined for each other. The two were wed in 1988 and together raised two children, John and Susanna, in Los Gatos. Never before married, Tom found a new and unexpected life: “I didn’t just gain a wife; I gained a continent,” he half-jokes.
Linda Waldrop was well-known as a lively and happy person who loved people, nature, wildlife, art, literature, music, culture, cooking, children, and many other things. “She was headstrong, caring, and adventurous,” shared their daughter Susanna.“ She was proper and well-mannered, but honest and straightforward.” Friends say that Linda was “so real about everything,” and had “a sparkle about her.” She was a dedicated mother who applied her nursing skills and diligence to her kids, who were always well-cared-for and prepared. Mindful of cardiovascular diseases, Linda strove for a healthy lifestyle for herself and her family.
In spring 2018, Linda began to experience a series of falls. Her primary physician referred her to a Parkinson’s clinic. Months of those medications didn’t help, and that doctor began calling her “the mystery patient.” Then she was referred to another neurologist, one who had ALS experience during training and recognized many of the symptoms. Linda and Tom were stunned when it was determined that ALS was the diagnosis. Later that day, Linda asked Tom to bring her big medical book. She, of course, knew what ALS was, but wanted to read it anyway. Tom later heard her tell a friend on the phone “I have a terrible diagnosis.” She was 67 years old.
Linda was referred to the neurology department at Stanford Medical Center, a Golden West Chapter-supported Certified Center of Excellence, where she received multidisciplinary ALS care for a year, before entering hospice. “As anyone who’s dealt directly with ALS knows,” says Tom, “it was an ordeal.” Yet, despite the constraints from COVID-19 and the terrible burdens of living with ALS, they were able to make that time – to a good degree – one of family and friends and things that they loved. These included watching live-streamed wildlife tours of her beloved Kruger National Park back home in South Africa, and hours of home videos of their growing family in times past.
Sadly, Linda died of ALS on August 18, 2020, just 18 months after diagnosis. Tom was struck by how often ALS is misdiagnosed (two others within their same church had the disease) and the importance of the care services offered by the Golden West Chapter. Until cures and more effective treatments can be found, he hopes for ways to educate physicians, perhaps starting in medical school, about the possible signs of it.
Wishing to help others affected by ALS, Tom built upon donations to Golden West Chapter of The ALS Association in Linda’s memory from friends and family by making a significant gift in 2021 to establish The Linda Clegg Waldrop Memorial Fund. Today he is fulfilling a further five-year commitment through that memorial fund.
Now Tom and family are offering a special matching grant of up to $6,000 to help the Golden West Chapter with the support it provides directly to patients and families and especially for its close support and work with leading ALS researchers in the Golden West Chapter’s service area. Please join them in helping to make progress toward treating and curing ALS.