Mary Kay Baum has been an advocate for peace and justice causes for decades, thus she has always been familiar with struggle. Today, at 62, she enters the later phases of her life engaged in the most personal and, in many ways, frightening struggle she has yet to assume, with Alzheimer's disease.
This week's cover story, "Ambassador of Hope," gives us a look at how a seasoned warrior continues to battle for herself and for a cause that will, in the end, help those who come after her. Alzheimer's, the dreaded destroyer of memory, mental function and personality, looms even more frighteningly because so little is yet known about its causes, much less possible cures.
Those who have witnessed Alzheimer's effects upon family and friends - and I count myself among them - come to dread the possibility of being visited by such a fate. Baum, it seems, has embraced the reality of the disease and now dedicates her energy to revealing the affliction's secrets and advancing the state of knowledge about it.
My mother had Alzheimer's, though not the early-onset variety that has struck Baum. She did not die of it; her heart gave out before her mind completely did. But from what my family did see of the affliction, we were happy that her end was relatively swift compared to the ravages that might have awaited her.
My mother did not have the relative youth and, perhaps, pluck that Mary Kay Baum has. The rest of us are, in a way, lucky that the disease picked on her. It gives us a strong ally in what everyone expects to be a tough battle.
Kudos go to news editor Bill Lueders from the Alliance for Animals. The group has awarded him its "Heart of Journalism" award for "his continued coverage and investigative reporting on animal-related stories, and particularly for his coverage of animal care and use at the University of Wisconsin, Madison." The award will be presented at the group's second annual Vegantines Dinner and Dance to be held at the West Side Club on Feb. 6.