Tony Hawk is mourning the death of a loved one this holiday season.
On Monday, the retired professional skateboarder announced that his mother, Nancy Elizabeth Hawk, had died that afternoon after a long battle with Alzheimer’s disease and dementia.
“My mom died peacefully this afternoon after a decade-long battle with Alzheimer’s and dementia,” Hawk, 51, wrote on Instagram. “We watched helplessly as she slid away — mentally and physically — in rapid decline over the last few years. With each visit it became less likely that there would be any signs of recognition.”
However, the former skateboarder added that he wants to remember his mother in a more positive light.
“She grew up during the Great Depression, had two jobs by age 14, married my father after he enlisted in the Navy during WW2, and managed to raise four kids on a meager budget while providing us with plenty of encouragement and confidence to follow our passions,” Hawk said of his mother. “She earned her doctorate in business management at an age that most would choose to retire from work altogether.”
In addition to her own success, she was also someone who continuously supported her son in his passion for skateboarding, he said.
“She was a surrogate mom and a beacon of warmth to many of my misfit friends with weird hair and difficult backgrounds. She worried when I got hurt skating, but never discouraged me from doing it because she understood the unparalleled joy it brought me,” wrote Hawk, who retired from skateboarding competitions in 1999 after winning more than 70 contests throughout his time as a professional.
“She touched many lives with her kindness and I believe she left the world a better place for countless others,” he added.
Hawk said his oldest sister recently found a form with their mother’s “end of life” wishes, which the father of four said was filled out in “her cognitive days.”
When his mother was asked how she wanted to be remembered by others, she had replied: “She was funny; adored life, friends, and family.” And when Nancy was asked if she wanted any music, songs or readings at her memorial service, she responded: “Hip Hop music might be nice.”
“So if you knew Nancy Hawk or just want to celebrate her life with us, please raise a glass and play your favorite hip hop tune in her honor,” her son wrote. “Thanks for everything mom, we love you and we are thankful for your guidance.”
He then added, “And before I forget: f— Alzheimer’s, give to Hilarity for Charity,” encouraging his fans to donate to a charity that raises awareness about the disease.
Alzheimer’s is an irreversible, progressive disease that causes brain cells to degenerate and die, according to Mayo Clinic. It is also the leading cause of dementia, which is a continuous decline in a person’s ability to function independently.
Early symptoms of Alzheimer’s vary from person to person, but they typically include cognitive impairment, having difficulty finding words, spatial issues, and impaired judgment, according to the National Institute on Aging. It is ranked as the sixth leading cause of death in the United States for the elderly.
In October, Hawk had opened up about seeing his mother succumb to Alzheimer’s, explaining that “you have to remember them for who they were.”
“I think that over the last couple years, I was always looking for glimpses of recognition. And now, I don’t seek that so much. I just accept that,” he told the Detroit Free Press at the time. “I enjoy that she’s still here and I can spend some time with her.”