Kirkland man sashays to keep Dementia away

    Joe Bahr (Photo supplied by him)

    KIRKLAND, Wash. -- A local man is on a crusade against Alzheimer's Disease, in memory of his brother.

    “He was getting very forgetful,” Joe Bahr recalls, referring to his brother Marty. Before Marty passed away at the age of 58, he made a deal with Joe.

    “He said, ‘if I donate my brain to research, will you continue to do this, to find a cure? And it will make my life worth something.’ And I said, 'you're on!' " Joe remembers.

    That was years ago, and Joe has kept his word by moving his feet ever since. You see, Joe Bahr is a square-dancer, and he loves being a member of the Sky Valley Whirlwinds Square Dance Club. He dances for fun, and he dances for his brother.

    Joe organizes yearly dances up and down the West Coast, each one a benefit for Alzheimer’s research.

    “In 2008, we brought in $4,022.30,” he recalls of that first fundraising dance.

    Over a decade later, Joe has raised over $50,000, much of it benefiting The Alzheimer's Disease Research Center at the University of Washington, where Joe works closely with Doctor Thomas Grabowski.

    “We think highly of him,” Grabowski tells KOMO News. “He’s a model of commitment.”

    The good doctor is also pleased with the way Joe Bahr raises research dollars. Grabowski says square dancing is a good workout for a brain fighting with dementia.

    “There’s special processing that happens, task switching, a lot of mental flexibility that’s required to follow the caller,” Grabowski says.

    That’s the technical side of this story. Here comes Joe’s heart:

    “I’m not only doing it for Marty, but I’m doing it for every soul walking on this Earth,” Bahr says. “It is a nasty disease.”

    His goal is to host more fundraising dances across the country.

    There are several dances coming up soon, including one on Feb. 24 at the Juanita Community Center in Kirkland. For more information on this and other dances to raise money for local dementia research, visit the website

    “There is a cure for Alzheimer’s,” Joe adds. “We just have to find it.”

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