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Annabel Bowlen's unmistakable impact on the Broncos


The image of Annabel Bowlen accepting the Broncos' third Lombardi Trophy after Super Bowl 50 is as indelible as it is a piece of a cornerstone moment in Denver's history.

Since 2014, Mrs. Bowlen has helped guide the franchise as Owner Pat Bowlen has fought Alzheimer's with strength and endurance.

On that February night in Santa Clara, California — and on every day before and since — Mrs. Bowlen represented her husband with determination and grace.

Now, Mrs. Bowlen has expressed a desire to display the same qualities as she begins her own battle against Alzheimer's.

If Mrs. Bowlen's demeanor over the past three decades standing alongside her husband is any indication, then there should be no question in regard to how she will approach her latest challenge.

Consider the unimaginably difficult situation in which Mrs. Bowlen found herself when Mr. Bowlen stepped away from the team in 2014 to fight Alzheimer's.

She had to do more than just represent the Broncos and the city of Denver. Mrs. Bowlen also had to cope as her friend and husband struggled against an evil disease.

A look at Annabel Bowlen's years with the Broncos.

But through it all, Mrs. Bowlen handled the situation with perhaps an underappreciated amount of dignity. From accepting trophies after landmark wins to presenting President Barack Obama a team jersey at the White House, she has always represented the organization with class.

So while her brave public announcement will not affect the team's operations or Mr. Bowlen's succession plan, it couldn't be more important to recognize her impact — one that extends far beyond football.

Over the last several years, Mrs. Bowlen and her five children — Patrick, Johnny, Brittany, Annabel and Christianna — made an enduring impact on Colorado's Alzheimer's community. Mrs. Bowlen has led Team Super Bowlen during September's annual Walk to End Alzheimer's since 2014.

Mrs. Bowlen, her family and the Broncos have helped raise more than $500,000 in financial and in-kind support for the Alzheimer's Association Colorado Chapter, a team partner since 2014.

Mrs. Bowlen's latest contribution to the fight against disease comes from her willingness to share the details of her own struggle.

"I decided to make my diagnosis public right away in the hope that it continues to raise awareness for those battling Alzheimer's and their loved ones," Mrs. Bowlen said, in part, in a statement Wednesday. "With June also being Alzheimer's & Brain Awareness Month, the timing was right for me to share this personal update with everyone.

"I feel that it is important for people to know that those in my situation do not need to completely withdraw from their daily activities. Based on my own experience with Pat, there will still be many joyous and rewarding moments for me as well as my family and friends.


"I intend to proceed in life with the same strength, courage and endurance that Pat has shown in his battle with this disease. Like Pat, I know there will be good days and bad days ahead. I'm grateful to have the support of my family and especially my children—Patrick, Johnny, Brittany, Annabel and Christianna."

Mrs. Bowlen also emphasized in her statement that she and her family will remain "dedicated supporters of Alzheimer's awareness, treatment and research funding."

She said Wednesday she hoped to remain involved in various Alzheimer's events, and perhaps that illustrates her legacy better than any monetary figure ever could.

Even as she stares down a disease that attacks the mind, she is as concerned about the fate of others as she is about her own health.

It's easy to act altruistically when life is without challenges.

It's another matter entirely to do so in the situation in which Mrs. Bowlen finds herself.

To those who know Mrs. Bowlen best, though, that quality should not be surprising in the least.


She and her children have all — to varying degrees — served as caregivers for Mr. Bowlen, and the five children will continue to act in that role as they deal with the harsh and rare reality of having two parents battle Alzheimer's.

"Our support extends not only to Annabel and Pat, but also to their children," President and CEO Joe Ellis said. "While having both parents diagnosed with Alzheimer's is daunting, they've already demonstrated such strength and compassion in their roles as caregivers."

Her children's resolve, though, will not waver either.

"During the last few years, all of us have been inspired by the strength and courage our mother has shown as she's supported our father in his own battle with Alzheimer's disease," Mrs. Bowlen's five children said in a statement. "We're confident that she will bring the same grace, compassion and determination to her fight."

That seems like a near certainty.

And here's another: No matter what the disease brings to Mrs. Bowlen's future, it cannot impact the precious moments from the past.

From a football standpoint, those occasions have helped continue a tradition of winning and success.

Off the field, they've shaped a legacy that means much more.

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