Virginia Marsh Bell, M.S.W.
(Lexington, KY / 1922–2023)
It is with gratitude and pride that we recognize the long and productive life of a great friend and colleague, Virginia Bell, who recently left us—but not without leaving an enduring mark on the world, both through the innumerable lives she touched directly and in the reverberations from her good work that spread like ripples across the land and around the globe.
With quiet strength and disarming wisdom, Virginia served as teacher, leader, and inspiration to friends, family, and professionals across her remarkable 100 years of life. In particular, she tirelessly advocated to make the world a better place for people living with the challenges of Alzheimer’s and those who care for them. In the 1990s, her “new” way of seeing and relating to people with memory loss—her Best Friends™ approach—returned a field mired in medicalized care to our essential human nature, where caring flows from honoring and connecting to the infinite value of each person’s unique identity and life story. Virginia’s life-affirming approach restores dignity and joy to people living with dementia by meeting their inherent right to feel known, valued, and supported by those around them.
Virginia remained active and involved in the cause of improving dementia care right up to the end. Not only did she recently participate in a full revision of one of her books, but she also was advising staff and volunteers at the Best Friends Day Center she founded, serving on the planning committee for Dementia Friendly Lexington, and just a few short months ago received an honorary doctoral degree from the University of Kentucky. Her awards and accolades are too numerous to name.
As the publisher of Virginia’s books—written with longtime collaborator David Troxel—Health Professions Press is honored to have contributed to her far-reaching legacy. We will miss her terribly, but her spirit and teachings live on in these publications, and in the example of all those who follow in Virginia’s footsteps in their work and lives.