Steve Branch has always been a mover and a shaker. Whether he was spending time with his family, playing sports, or helping around his community, Steve was active and moving. He made sure to pass his sense of adventure and accountability on to his 3 daughters, Katie, Lisa, and Christy.
“My dad was committed to his family and friends. He was always available to listen and provided sensible advice. He was self-reliant, stubborn, and always accountable to doing the right thing. As his daughters, he held us all accountable to be our best selves. As a father, he maintained authority with calm and measured expectations. My whole life, I never remember hearing him yell. He was a really good dad,” said Christy.
He instilled a sense of independence in his girls, making sure that they would be ready for whatever life threw at them.
“Dad raised three independent women. Some of his advice included: If there is something you want in life, you need to make it happen. Never depend on a man. You are in control of your life,” Lisa said.
Steve had always been active and athletic, even into his 70’s, so when he began experiencing issues with his speech and vision, his daughters became concerned and encouraged him to see a doctor. Steve was originally diagnosed with Myasthenia Gravis, but as his condition worsened, it became clear that something more was happening.
“I remember sitting with him in May, and he remarked ‘I’m glad this is not ALS, that would be a death sentence,” Christy said of the diagnosis process. But as his symptoms progressed the family received devastating news, “Less than a month later the diagnosis evolved to ALS, and all our worlds became chaotically still.”
Though Steve’s daughters were grown up and had started their own families, when he received his diagnosis they all came back together to tackle this new challenge as a family.
“During the short months that were ahead of us, we reverted back to our tight knit nuclear family. The world seemed very far away with only my mother, my sisters, and my dad in focus. After the ALS diagnosis, my world became much smaller, more prioritized,” Christy said.
The girls are thankful for the responsibility and independence that their father raised them with.
“I think that what he instilled in us has made the four of us even more bonded, and we can keep going in his honor. what he would want is for us to keep moving and us to keep going and doing the things that mattered,” said Katie.
Not only was Steve a rock for his family, but he was a pillar of the community. Steve had purchased a local furniture shop and had become a staple of the Copperas Cove area. As the girls returned home to help with the ALS diagnosis, they began to hear stories from the community about the incredible ways their father had been involved.
“People would come out of the woodwork to say ‘Your dad did the nicest thing for my wife, or he never let me pay for this because I was in a down time, or he would always show up and help me move something.’ So like just little things that added up and you could tell from the town that he was contributing to them. We were surprised at how much he was doing that he never told us about because he didn’t brag at all,” said Katie.
Even though Steve received a relatively quick diagnosis, his symptoms progressed rapidly, and he passed away about 5 months after his initial diagnosis. Though Lisa knew that the diagnosis was quick, it was hard for the family to watch his symptoms worsen.
“It felt like it took forever, but in hindsight, I know that we were actually blessed with a quick diagnosis. Dad’s case was an aggressive form. It was hard to cram all of the emotions, denial, and acceptance in a short time, it was a blessing. Dad was so frustrated being locked in his own body,” Lisa said.
Throughout the ALS journey, Katie, Lisa, Christy, and their mother knew they always had each other to rely on. They cherished the moments they had together and supported each other throughout those difficult 5 months.
“You know we came out of this as a stronger family versus any diversions. It is really hard on ALS families and caregivers. It tugs you in so many different directions, and it’s there’s so many unknowns with how to handle it. The five of us, and now the four of us, it didn’t break us. It just made us stronger. And I think he would appreciate that.” Katie said.
Join us at the Shoot Out ALS Sporting Clay Shoot in Dallas this year to honor Steve and support those living with ALS.