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Ronald Wilson Reagan Case Study


Couple touched by the renewed attention to Alzheimer's

In a letter to the American people in 1994, Reagan said he was in the early stages of Alzheimer's disease. He maintained his optimism: "I now begin the journey that will lead me into the sunset of my life. I know that for America

what is coming down the pike for my husband. It makes us feel quite sad knowing what's in our future, knowing there really is no cure on the horizon at all."

Marty, a former insurance executive, realized something was wrong when he began having trouble doing simple computer tasks such as sending e-mail. He had to quit work. He can't drive. He has trouble reading.

there will dawn ahead."





Marty and Laurie Bahr didn't know each other when Ronald Reagan was president. He was in Philadelphia. She was in Southern California. He supported Reagan politically. She did not. He liked Reagan's honesty. She disliked his conservative policies.

But when Reagan died last weekend, the Bahrs were united in their emotions. Reagan died of complications of Alzheimer's disease. Marty Bahr was diagnosed with the early stages of dementia four years ago at age 51, shortly after the two married.

"We are very touched by this," says Laurie, 47. "I see in full frontal exactly

Reagan's death has thrown off the delicate balance they've struggled to maintain to cope with Alzheimer's. "You find that you kind of live life somewhere between just getting through your day, between denial and allowing it to overwhelm you," says Laurie, an insurance broker and risk management consultant.

But Marty finds some solace. Reagan raised awareness and acceptance of Alzheimer's by making his condition public 10 years ago, he says. His death is doing that again.

"The more that people know and understand what it's truly like to have Alzheimer's, the better off we are," says Marty, now 55.

But the Bahrs, who live in Bartlett, Ill., a Chicago suburb, say they're fortunate that Marty's disease is progressing slowly. He stays active and wants to do more to help other people with Alzheimer's.

The Reagan family's willingness to publicize the president's disease "was the best thing that ever happened to us," Marty says. "It really was. His wife kept going. . . . She just kept pushing, pushing."

By Haya El Nasser

Fired air-traffic controller still feels the sting decades later

Reagan fired more than 11,000 air- traffic controllers in 1981 for staging a strike. The president's move was a major blow to the power of labor unions.

Ron Taylor was fired by President Reagan 23 years ago. He's still trying to get his job back.

Taylor, 57, of Stuart, Fla., was one of more than 11,000 air-traffic controllers fired by Reagan after they went on strike for higher wages and fewer hours on the stress-filled job. In 1993, President Clinton ended the "ban for life" Reagan had imposed on former members of the Professional Air Traffic Controllers Association, but Taylor and thousands of others weren't rehired.

"When they talk about Reagan as compassionate, I just don't know what they are talking about," says Taylor, president of PATCO, which continues legal action to get members' jobs back.

"Reagan banned us for life," Taylor says. "Even murderers are eligible for parole. We thought we, as labor, had a friend in the White House."

Taylor has been working as an electrical contractor since losing his controller job. He says he and other PATCO members would need only minimal updates of their training. "Many other controllers and I have kept up our computer skills, and we certainly still know how to move planes," he says.

Reagan's firing of the controllers is viewed by many business leaders and historians as a defining act of his presidency. They say it gave corporations license to be much tougher with organized labor and put Soviet leaders on notice that Reagan was tougher than they thought.

Today there are fewer air-traffic controllers than in 1981 despite a huge increase in air traffic. The current union, the National Air Traffic Controllers Association, warns that thousands more controllers are needed in the next 10 years.

Taylor and his membership would like a crack at those jobs before they get too old.

By David Kiley

Reprinted with permission. All rights reserved.

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