Uram family to Walk to End Alzheimer’s
Local family aims to raise Alzheimer’s awareness
Matt Uram will walk in honor of his mother, Julie Uram, at the 2013 Walk to End Alzhiemer’s Saturday at Washington Park. Mrs. Uram died in 2012 from complications of Alzheimer’s.
Katie Roupe / Observer-Reporter
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Matt Uram and his children, Brooke,13, and Andrew,10, sit in front of a portrait of their mother and grandmother, Julie Uram, and her husband, Andrew. The Uram family will walk at the 2013 Walk to End Alzheimer’s tomorrow at Washington Park.
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Julie Uram was a well-educated, active woman with an unyielding passion for her family and her community, serving both with equal amounts of grace, determination and pride.
However, by the time she died on June 29, 2012, many of those refined qualities had faded, stolen by the unforgiving disease known as Alzheimer’s. Mrs. Uram was 87.
“It was shocking to go through on a day-to-day basis,” said Matt Uram, one of five sons Uram and her husband, Andrew, raised in their East Washington home. “You get lost in this when you live it every day.”
Witnessing his mother’s final years was difficult for Matt.
He recalls spending what seemed like “thousands of Sunday nights” in his younger years helping his mother fold letters and stuff envelopes at his mother’s direction for one of the many organizations she chaired.
But in the early stages of her disease, Uram, unbeknownst to her, couldn’t even function well in that capacity.
“She took pride in doing a project. She was happy she was able to still do it, but …,” Matt said.
That’s partly why he, along with his family, will be participating in the Walk to End Alzheimer’s, which kicks off with registration at 8 a.m. Saturday at Washington Park. The walk begins at 9 a.m.
“I walk to remember. I walk for hope to raise more awareness so there’s research out there. That’s really what’s going to take us over the top,” said Matt, who works for Southwestern Pennsylvania Area Agency on Aging. “I walk out of fear. Baby boomers above 55, 60 years old … we’re on the verge of a health-care crisis. It’s going to affect a lot more lives. “And I fear for myself.”
Uram was a political dynamo, serving as a former leader of the Washington County Republican Party who was sought out by high-level GOP leaders at national conventions.
She also was a psychiatric registered nurse, the first woman campaign president of the United Way of Washington County, secretary of the Greater Pittsburgh Guild for the Blind, a longtime member of the Washington Hospital Foundation board of trustees, a member of a committee that raised $240,000 from the private sector for the Washington Park capital improvement drive and an active member of Immaculate Conception parish.
“She was a heck of a powerful woman,” Matt said. “She was always involved. She was always hands-on. She had a mind of clarity. She wasn’t afraid of making the tough decisions. She could delegate, but she had no problem getting hands dirty.”
Matt said he started to notice a decline in his mother’s health in 2007, not long after a fall outside the Waldorf Astoria in New York City required hip replacement surgery.
In the early stages of the disease, Uram’s mind started wandering, and even though “she was strong on remembering the past,” Matt said she started forgetting things she had done a day or two before.
“It was real tough in the beginning,” Matt said. “She couldn’t figure out why her mind was not working. She remembered things from 40 years ago like it was yesterday.
“When it affected the second part of her brain, you could see the progression. That really made my knees wobbly.”
And that’s when Mrs. Uram’s illness began to affect the family physically and emotionally, especially her husband, Andrew, now 93. He’s in good shape, Matt said, but his wife’s illness did take its toll on him.
“Dad had a lot of support, but you can still see remnants of what he went through,” Matt said. “I was here four times a day. I got calls three or four times at night that she had fallen.
“This is just tough,” Matt said, his voice choking with emotion. “It’s as fresh as it was a year ago.”
In November 2011, the family made the difficult decision to move Uram to Hawthorne Woods, where she resided until her death.
But even in the worst of times, Matt has a few good memories, and he is grateful for them.
“She couldn’t focus on the little things, but she still remembered us,” he said.
Uram was especially fond of her granddaughter, Brooke, 13, the first girl born into the family during the Urams’ 65-year marriage. Even the couple’s dogs were male, Matt joked.
And on June 14, 2012, just two weeks before Uram died, she and her husband celebrated their 65th wedding anniversary. She was able to spend time with her family, and she attended Mass in the couple’s honor with the Rev. William Feeney. She even enjoyed a glass of wine.
“We tried to find an answer to this insidious disease,” Matt said. “We tried so many things to slow the progression. When it gets to the second stage, there’s no stopping it. “The walk is about awareness. Awareness brings you to the doctor. We are making progress. We are moving in the direction we need to move.”
For more information about tomorrow’s Walk to End Alzheimer’s, contactAbby Spreng at 412-261-5040 or email@example.com.