Patrick Hill Rupertus
Captain,United States Marine Corps
son of William Henry Rupertus, he was born on
August 18, 1939 and died on March 16, 1991. His name appears on the rear
of his father's private memorial in Section 6 of Arlington National Cemetery,
and the following also appears written there:
"Remembered with love by his wife and their daughters."
From a press report: November 2000
One year ago, Gail Rupertus was cycling 30 miles a week and working out regularly. Today, the 59-year-old McLean resident needs help getting dressed in the morning.
"This time last year, she was talking like you and me; my mother was the picture of perfect health", said Rupertus' 30-year-old daughter, Amy Rupertus Peacock.
In February this year, after months of countless visits to various doctors and agonizing tests, Gail Rupertus was finally diagnosed with Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS) also known as Lou Gehrig¹s disease. ALS is a fatal disease that attacks the brain¹s motor neurons, resulting in destruction of the function of the nerves and muscles. The disease moves very quickly and aggressively, and those diagnosed are only given a life expectancy of 2-5 years. As ALS progresses, patients lose their ability to speak and move, although their mind remains unaffected. They are eventually unable to eat or breathe on their own.
"Every day, she loses some of her independence. While she remains beautiful, she struggles with other things that people take for granted, " said Peacock.
A Positive Focus
ALS was first discovered in 1869, but there is still no treatment or cure available. It affects people of all ages, and doctors do not know what causes the disease. For Amy Peacock, and her told older sisters, Heather Bates and Kimberly Rupertus Robinson, there is no excuse for this lack of progress.
"When we found out that my mom, who was so independent, had ALS and that she could suffer, it was just suffocating. We just started thinking about what we could do, " said Peacock.
According to Rupertus, her daughters focused their energy on a way to find a cure for the disease. Peacock says their goal was to ensure monetary contributions go directly to researchers, thus avoiding the loss of donations in administrative overhead costs.
In February 2000, the Rupertus daughters created the Rupertus Foundation to Cure ALS. Rupertus says she has been overwhelmed by her daughters drive to take a proactive role in finding a cure for ALS.
"I have never heard of anybody with a disease who¹s daughters have rose to the occasion like my three," she said, adding that she feels that Peacock is the catalyst and the motivator of the group.
Both Peacock and Rupertus say that the lack of information about ALS is astounding, and that a lot more people are affected with the disease than people realize.
"How can we find a cure if no one knows about it?" asks Peacock.
Gail Rupertus moved with her family to McLean in 1978. All three children are graduated form Langley High School, and Rupertus has always been in community activities.
"I was involved with the McLean Orchestra, I was a member of the McLean Chamber of Commerce-all sorts of things, and just when I was at the point when I wanted to do more volunteer work, all this happened," said Rupertus.
Rupertus¹ first symptom of ALS was a single cramp in her hand. She went to see the doctor, and was then sent out to see specialists. After that, it was just a few small incidents here and there. Rupertus fell twice while walking, but thought it was a problem with her shoes. Amy Peacock first noticed a real problem during one of her routine walks with her mother.
"Mom came over for a walk - I was doing my usual race-walk and she was having trouble keeping up. Finally, she stopped and said, "I have to stop, I am having a really hard time¹", said Peacock.
Now Rupertus has a constant caregiver to assist her with her daily functions. She moves around with the assistance of a walker and a wheelchair, and she has developed a slur in her speech pattern. According to Peacock, ALS is particularly difficult because it does require such intense and constant care from an outside source.
"The maintenance is unbelievable," said Peacock, adding that insurance companies "don¹t get how bad ALS is."
"They don¹t understand how much they (ALS patients) depend on a caregiver, "she said.
Rupertus¹ husband died of cancer nine years ago. After his death, Rupertus says she was approached about buying long term care insurance, and she decided to purchase a plan, just to be on the safe side.
"Every year I paid on it, I felt like it was a waste of my money because I was so healthy," said Rupertus.
That long-term care insurance has been a blessing now that Rupertus has ALS. But Peacock says paying the medical bills and waiting for reimbursement from the company is still a difficult system.
Rupertus has been trying to be as active as she can, while she is still able to do so. Once she was diagnosed, she started to travel extensively and continues to take trips while she can. She also still makes it to the gym to get in time in the swimming pool. She says having ALS has made her more aware of the serious lack of handicapped services in every facility. She has also noticed a change in the way people treat her and says that people have started to hang up on the phone when she calls because they cannot understand what she is saying.
"A lot of people ignore me because they don¹t
want to see someone disabled like me. It¹s not very nice," she said.
RUPERTUS, GAIL BENNETT