In her 88 years, Val Schurman has compiled a long list of accomplishments. But perhaps none so remarkable as her professed ability to recite her eighth-grade valedictory address word-for-word – until three years ago.

That’s when Schurman first began experiencing symptoms of Alzheimer’s. For Schurman, who hasn’t shied away from struggles in her life, navigating everyday life has become a challenge for a mind that was as sharp as they come.

Schurman, the former state president of the Maine Federation of Business and Professional Women, was active in politics long before it was common for women. She first got involved in Republican Party politics at the time of the Equal Rights Amendment, when women couldn’t sue, buy a home or have a byline in a newspaper. She fought with other women to get the rights that future generations couldn’t imagine not having.

When the GOP dropped the Equal Rights Amendment from its platform in 1974, she switched parties. After her husband died in the 1980s, she got heavily involved in the Democratic Party, serving as the secretary of the Buxton Democratic Committee and the York County Democratic Committee and volunteering to work on campaigns for Democrats like Tom Allen and Bill Clinton. Schurman also did the absentee voting at Longfellow Place, where she lives, and also served as president of the tenants’ council.

Then one day, after the deaths of her 67-year-old son and five others that were close to her, she looked out at the tenants’ council and couldn’t remember anyone’s name. She became disorganized and started losing her place on the agenda. Eventually, she decided to resign from the council.

However, the daily tribulations of Alzheimer’s continue, and Schurman handles them all as she has most things in her life, it would seem – with dignity and determination. She tells people she has Alzheimer’s so they understand when she forgets their names. She writes notes to herself constantly and keeps lists of things to tell her daughter when she calls her. She curses at herself when she does things like opening the microwave door with milk in her hand.

For a woman who has owned her own business, raised a family and been so involved politically, struggling with day-to-day chores must be maddening. But Schurman says she’s not depressed. She just hopes she doesn’t have to face the day when someone close to her arrives at her door and she doesn’t recognize the person.

Many, unfortunately, have someone close to us who is, like Schurman, facing Alzheimer’s courageously. All of them need our support.

On Saturday, Sept. 20, and Saturday, Oct. 4, the Alzheimer’s Association Memory Walks will be held at 15 locations around the state, including Scarborough. Registration for the walks is now open. For more information, go to www.alz.org/maine.

Brendan Moran, editor


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