As many of you know, our beloved founder, Trish Vradenburg passed away yesterday. Our hearts are broken. In my grief, I wanted to reflect on her life and what she meant to me and to our community. There are simply no words to fully express my grief and the deep sense of empathy I feel for her husband, best friend, lover and soul mate George Vradenburg. Trish was a rare breed, the perfect combination of consummate lady and inveterate ball buster – she was smart, loving, devoted and most of all, hilarious. She could take even the most serious subject and burst the bubble of tension in any room with a perfectly timed joke, usually no more than a few words. She was understated but her presence was enormous – a two-step only the most amazing of people can accomplish.
Trish clearly took a lot of her inspiration in life from her mother, and her mother’s final gift to Trish was the life’s passion she would undertake until the end. It was a gift that even Trish would say in her most honest moments – thanks mom, but no thanks, can’t you give me something else! Trish talked often about her mother – she talked proudly of her role in democratic politics and her unwillingness to take no for an answer. She was clearly fiercely loyal to her mother and even wrote a play, not letting the “bimbo” her father dated while her mother was sick with Alzheimer’s have the last word. What I hope that Trish saw was that she created, through her authenticity and devotion to family and the causes she cared about, the same loyalty in her kids and kids-in-law and in everyone who came into contact with her. When George and Trish moved to DC for him to take a new job, I think Trish saw the move as temporary, and that her real home LA awaited their return. Nonetheless, Trish entered DC with the same gusto she does everything else, creating an enormous network of friends and admirers and rising to the top of the circle of generosity, making life better for those in DC and beyond. No wonder, she was always the belle of the ball!
For those of us just behind Trish in the fight for women’s equality, Trish was an example every day. She was an independent, career-minded woman who was able also to put family first and was not afraid that “standing by her man” would compromise her commitment to feminism and equality. It is too often the case that women feel the need to choose one or the other. Trish’s courage and independence was an example to me every day of how to literally have it all!
And, then there was Trish’s tenacity – and boy was she tenacious. The most incredible thing to watch though was how her tenacity was cloaked in her infectious smile, beautiful clothes, brilliant conversation and humor. Trish was famous for refusing to leave a member of Congress’ or a Senator’s office before she got what she wanted. She worked a room like no other – recently racking up 20 Senators in a weekend to join her Alzheimer’s Party – a place where she felt strongly we all could and should come together. The best thing though was seeing Trish recount these successes – she took such pleasure in making people see just how important this cause is and would stop at nothing to make others see the light!
I know I am not the only one who will miss Trish today and every day. I do know that my work advancing the cause of women, curing Alzheimer’s and fighting for what is right just got a lot of new energy – and I will feel it each and every day.
Please see below for the statement from UsAgainstAlzheimer's.
UsAgainstAlzheimer’s Mourns Passing of Adored and Inspirational Co-Founder and Vice-Chair Trish Vradenburg
Trish’s Deep-Rooted and Unflinching Passion to Fight Alzheimer’s Creates Admirable and Aspirational Legacy
WASHINGTON, DC—UsAgainstAlzheimer’s Co-Founder and Vice-Chair Trish Vradenburg’s unflinching spirit – her creativity and imagination, quick-witted humor, empathy, generosity and her exceptional tenacity to stop the suffering of others – was captured in her every action. It is with immense sadness that UsAgainstAlzheimer’s announces her passing, and it is with the utmost gratitude that the organization cherishes her legacy and forges ahead in her memory.
Trish’s life was an inspiring portrait of creativity and versatility, employing her gifts of writing and storytelling throughout a successful professional career. She began her career as a speechwriter in the U.S. Senate. She wrote for various television shows, including Designing Women, Family Ties and Kate and Allie. Trish’s novel, Liberated Lady, was chosen as Literary Guild and Doubleday Book Club selections and has been translated into three foreign languages.
As a journalist, she wrote extensively for The New York Daily News, The Boston Globe, The Washington Post, Ladies’ Home Journal and Women’s Day. Surviving Grace, Trish’s quasi-autobiographical play about a sitcom writer and her mom battling Alzheimer’s disease together, was produced at The Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C., and Off Broadway at the Union Square Theater. It is now being performed at various community theaters throughout the country, as well as in Brazil.
Founded with her husband George Vradenburg, UsAgainstAlzheimer’s was born out of their passion to fight back against Alzheimer’s disease, which Trish’s mother, Bea Lerner, the wife of her father Joseph H. Lerner, succumbed to in 1992. Trish’s unique whimsical style, the perfect complement to George’s more serious side, was instrumental in leading the organization on a path to make meaningful progress against a disease that caused their family so much pain.
Trish was a gifted and relentless advocate. She helped achieve increased funding for Alzheimer’s research and build a growing public-private consensus that a cure for the disease must be reached by the year 2025. Recently, she spearheaded the launch of the Alzheimer’s Party, imploring members of Congress to join a bipartisan movement to end Alzheimer’s disease.
Trish also served on the Council of Theater J and on the boards of DC Vote and the Vradenburg Foundation.
She is survived by her adoring husband George; daughter Alissa Vradenburg and son-in-law Michael Sheresky of Los Angeles, CA; son Tyler Vradenburg and daughter-in-law Jeannine Cacioppe Vradenburg of Chicago IL; grandchildren Harrison Sheresky, Skyler Sheresky, May Vradenburg and Gavin Vradenburg; and her brother Rabbi Michael Lerner and sister-in-law Cat Zavis of Berkeley, CA. She was preceded in death by her father, Judge Joseph H. Lerner, and mother, Bea Lerner.
Private family funeral services will take place later this week in Los Angeles, followed by a public memorial service in Washington, D.C., on May 9 at a venue to be determined. Family and friends will be honoring Trish’s legacy; details will be shared as they become available.
UsAgainstAlzheimer's is an innovative, patient-centered non-profit demanding – and delivering – a solution to Alzheimer’s. Driven by the suffering of millions of families, UsAgainstAlzheimer’s presses for greater urgency from government, industry and the scientific community in the quest for an Alzheimer's cure – accomplishing this through its own patient-centered effective leadership, collaborative advocacy and strategic investments.
Founded in 2010, UsAgainstAlzheimer’s has worked across sectors to: (1) secure the national goal of preventing and effectively treating Alzheimer’s by 2025; (2) help secure nearly $1 billion in additional public funding for Alzheimer’s research over the past few years; (3) drive global efforts that resulted in the leaders of the world’s most powerful nations, the G7 group, to embrace a similar 2025 goal and to call for greater levels of research investment and collaboration; (4) transform the system of Alzheimer’s clinical trials for greater speed, efficiency and quality; and (5) forge a global process of industry, regulators and payers to bring greater clarity to the approval and payment of innovative medicines for Alzheimer’s.