Orangeburg, SC (WLTX) - It's rare when a loved one is diagnosed with Alzheimer's under the age of 65.
One Orangeburg family wants the community to know people can develop early on-set Alzheimer's in their fifties. The Williams family watched someone they love lose their memory.
Karen Williams, 62, was the first woman to become a judge on the United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit.
William's raised her four children in Orangeburg. Her son Charlie Williams III wanted to share her story.
"We worry about the time when her memory starts to lapse and she's unable to remember us children," Williams said. "So you just fear the unknown."
Karen Williams graduated at the top of her class from the University of South Carolina Law School. She began practicing law with her husband and his father in Orangeburg.
Williams was appointed in 1992 as Chief Judge in the Fourth Circuit and was a potential nominee to the U.S. Supreme Court under President George W. Bush.
"Not only was she able to succeed at her work and her practice, but also was at every sporting event taking us everywhere we needed to go," Williams said.
Around six years ago, Karen's family thought she was under a lot of stress with her new position.
"We kind of dismissed what should have been signs we picked up on," Williams said. "She drifted lanes and brushed up against another car."
Karen was diagnosed with Alzheimer's and suddenly retired from the bench because she couldn't perform her judicial duties.
"It was heartbreaking to see somebody at the top of their game doing so well to be hit with this diagnosis of Alzheimer's," Williams said.
Charlie Williams said Karen has a difficult time with her short term memory, but remembers events from his childhood.
This loving mom still continues her day-to-day activities. She attends bible study and visits her husband and two sons at their Orangeburg law office.
"Anything I can do to help her spread the awareness of Alzheimer's, I'm happy to help," Williams said.