After her mother slipped into dementia in the late 1980s and died of complications of Alzheimerâs disease in 1992 at 76, Trish Vradenburg and her husband, George, committed themselves to finding a remedy.
They raised millions of dollars for research and eventually established their own organization, UsAgainstAlzheimerâs, to galvanize their corporate and show-business connections into generating greater public awareness of the disease and advocating for more federal government investment in experimentation, speedier development of drugs and improved patient care.
All the while, Ms. Vradenburg (pronounced VRAY-denburg) dreaded the possibility that she, too, was genetically disposed to Alzheimerâs, afraid that moments of normal forgetfulness augured the disease.
But she refused to be tested until there was a cure. She once even went so far as to say that she preferred to be hit by a truck after taking the last bite of a Snickers bar, as long as she did not linger in a demented limbo, as her mother had.
Ms. Vradenburg died on Monday, of a heart attack, at her home in Washington, a spokesman for UsAgainstAlzheimerâs said. She was 70.
Ms. Vradenburg had come to her Alzheimerâs crusade from a writing career. She was a sitcom writer, novelist and playwright who began her career drafting speeches for Senator Harrison A. Williams, a Democrat from New Jersey. Her mother had worked for him as an assistant.
She wrote articles for newspapers and magazines, and then, after taking a night course at the New School in Manhattan, wrote for the CBS shows âKate & Allie,â âEverythingâs Relativeâ and âDesigning Womenâ; published a novel titled âLiberated Ladyâ (1986) (which was a Literary Guild alternate selection); and wrote a semiautobiographical play about a sitcom writer whose mother develops Alzheimerâs.
The play was originally called âThe Apple Doesnât Fall â¦â and was directed by Leonard Nimoy. It lasted one performance on Broadway in 1996, but was revived more successfully off Broadway as âSurviving Graceâ in 2002.
When Grace, the mother, lapses into temporary lucidity as a result of a successful treatment, she suggests that her daughter quit her job and join her on a cross-country trip. âHow many people would give anything to have their mother back?â Grace says. âWhen you think about it, Iâm giving you a gift.â
Patricia Lerner (her middle name at birth was Ann, but she changed it to Lois because she disliked her initials) was born on May 9, 1946, in Newark, to Joseph Lerner and the former Beatrice Hirschman. Her father was a municipal…