Penny Carney Bevilaqua only lived 40 days after her definitive diagnosis of systemic amyloidosis.
Penny, who was born and raised in Ashland City, was 62 when she died in October 2016. She was a woman described by her sister, Pamela Read, as “vibrant,” who lived an active lifestyle.
“It hit us like a ton of bricks,” Read said of her younger sister’s death. Read, a registered nurse who was present when Penny took her last breath, had seen people die before, “but never my sister. There was no time to prepare for it.”
According to the Amyloidosis Foundation, amyloidosis is a disease in which an abnormal protein — an amyloid — produces in bone marrow and disperses into organs, tissues, nerves and more throughout the body, impairing normal functions.
Though most people don’t recognize the name of the disease, Read fears it is becoming decreasingly rare, and that many doctors may not catch it until a patient is in the later stages, when it is more difficult — if possible — to treat.
Approximately 4,500 new cases of amyloidosis are reported each year in the U.S., but Penny’s family states that many believe the cases are underreported.
Read and the rest of the family hope to raise awareness and funding to research the disease with no cure.
In honor of Penny, her family organized Penny’s Ride for the Cure of Amyloidosis to raise money for the Amyloidosis Foundation, a 501(c)3 organization.
The event will take place Saturday, Oct. 21.
Participants can register on EventBrite for $50 for the “skilled cyclists” ride, which is an 11- or 19-mile course from Riverbluff Park onto Tennessee Waltz Parkway, to Highway 12 North, to the Cumberland Bicentennial Trail to Chapmansboro Road by the Sycamore Recreation area and the Cumberland River, according to the family’s website.
A “fun ride” will begin at 2:30 p.m., led by Penny’s family. Participants do not need to register for the 2- to 3-mile ride.
Riders receive a shirt and a goody bag.
There will also be food vendors available, and a silent auction with items such as a signed and numbered print of the Eiffel Tower by local artist Teresa Townsend Hargis. Other businesses and organizations, such as the Tennessee Titans and Domino’s Pizza, also contributed items.
Although it’s the family’s first fundraiser — and they hope to hold annual events — Read said they would like to raise between $20,000 and $30,000 for the Amyloidosis Foundation.
Whatever they can raise, she said, will be deposited into an account at Heritage Bank, where a cashier’s check will be written to the foundation.
“If it can kill Penny, it can kill just about anybody,” Read said of amyloidosis. “There’s no good reason she should have contracted this.”
All of Penny’s family, including her husband, kids and grandchildren, will be present at the event.
Penny met her husband, Steve Bevilaqua at UT-Chattanooga. The two had five children, six grandchildren and a seventh, born since Penny’s death.
Her family considered her a decorator, artist, cook and gardener, among other things.
Penny graduated from Cheatham County Central High School, and taught seventh grade at Harpeth Middle School.
“None of us, of course, will ever be the same” without Penny, Read said. “It sounds like a bad dream, and it is. …She was a vibrant person.”
Kelly Fisher, reporter for the Ashland City Times, can be reached at KPFisher@gannett.com, 615-801-3866 or on Twitter at @KellyPFisher.
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