Trish Vradenburg, TV writer who put spotlight on Alzheimer’s, 70


Trish Vradenburg. Photo courtesy of UsAgainstAlzheimer’s.

Trish Vradenburg. Photo courtesy of UsAgainstAlzheimer’s.

Trish Vradenburg, a television writer and advocate to end Alzheimer’s disease, died on April 17. She was 70.

A spokesperson for the family declined to disclose the cause of death, but in a phone interview, her husband, George, chairman and founding board member of UsAgainstAlzheimer’s, described his wife’s death as “sudden.”

Vradenburg and her husband co-founded UsAgainstAlzheimer’s, which aims to increase funding for Alzheimer’s research and discover a cure by 2020 for the progressive disease, a type of dementia, after her mother, Bea Lerner, died of Alzheimer’s in 1992. Vradenburg wrote a semi-autobiographical play about her mother, “Surviving Grace,” about a sitcom writer and her mom battling Alzheimer’s together.

Vradenburg was born Patricia Ann Lerner on May 9, 1946, in Newark, N.J. She began her career as a speechwriter in the U.S. Senate after graduating from Boston University, where she studied political science, in 1986. She was a television writer for “Designing Women,” “Family Ties” and “Kate & Allie”; published the novel “Liberated Lady”; and wrote for the New York Daily News, The Boston Globe, The Washington Post, Ladies’ Home Journal and Woman’s Day.

Judaism was important to Vradenburg, though she was a secular Jew. “She identified deeply with being Jewish and [I] converted to Judaism because she felt so deeply about her religion,” George, a former AOL executive, said. “I found this great depth in this community and purposefulness in the community.”

The couple resided in Washington, D.C., at the time of her death. They lived in Los Angeles and moved to Washington after George was offered a job with AOL. The two were married for 48 years at the time of Vradenburg’s death.

“A piece of light in the universe has gone out,” George said. “There is a brightness that will be dimmed.”

Her survivors include her husband, George; daughter Alissa Vradenburg and son-in-law Michael Sheresky; son Tyler Vradenburg and daughter-in-law Jeannine Cacioppe Vradenburg; brother Rabbi Michael Lerner and sister-in-law Cat Zavis; and four grandchildren.

A private funeral service was held April 20 in Los Angeles at Hillside Memorial Park and Mortuary. Lerner and Temple Israel of Hollywood Rabbi John Rosove led the service. A public memorial service in Washington is scheduled for May 9.

+