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Book recalls man’s struggle with Alzheimer’s-like disease

MILWAUKEE — A former Iron Mountain resident has written a memoir to her late husband about his struggles with an Alzheimer’s-like disease.

Martha Risberg Brosio was raised in Iron Mountain and graduated from Iron Mountain High School in 1955. She worked as a secretary at Lake Shore the summer after graduation and then moved to Hancock, where she began studies at St. Joseph Hospital to earn her registered nurse degree. She then moved to Milwaukee.

In “The Last Ten Days,” a memoir to her husband, Martha writes of their love story, starting with their life as high school sweethearts. 

Her husband, Richard Brosio, also was born and raised in Iron Mountain. He graduated from Iron Mountain High School in 1956. He was active in high school sports and worked in his uncles’ gas station, Brosio’s Citgo, next to Chapin Pit.

He graduated from the University of Michigan and went on to earn a master’s degree and later a doctorate of education, also from Michigan.

Most of his career was spent at Ball State in Indiana as a professor in the education department. After retirement, he worked as an adjunct professor at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee.

In 2013, after about two years of puzzling symptoms, Richard was diagnosed with frontotemporal dementia, a disease like Alzheimer’s except it starts in a different area of the brain and is often called primary progressive aphasia.

In his case, Richard, a lauded professor, speaker and writer of textbooks and many articles in professional journals, would lose his ability to speak and write.

She pays tribute to Richard’s scholastic achievements and philosophy of education, including many quotes from his books about the need to examine our education system and how students are taught.

Martha also explains the heartbreaking and brave decision Richard makes as he comes to grips with his illness.

He attempts to do battle with what he terms, “the enemy.”

When the enemy starts to defeat him, he puts his thought-out plan in action while he still has the faculties to do so. He chooses a method called VSED, which is voluntary stopping of eating and drinking.

The story focuses on his desire to leave the Earth in dignity and with respect. In tandem is Martha’s story as she supports and helps her husband. 

Martha tries to make each day as special as she can during the heartbreaking and cruel progression of a disease with no cure.

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