The Long Goodbye, Doty Land Alzheimer’s Disease Podcast

Another Doty Land Podcast from the Madison isthmus is ‘on the air’. I worked on this project in my broadcast studio Thursday night as the temperatures sank lower and lower.

With contemporaneous accounts of smiles and trying times while dealing with a friend’s Alzheimer’s disease come stories of laughter and also tenderness.  The final chapter of the life of Albert Trull, and the way it weaved with the personal life of podcaster Gregory Humphrey as his father was dying, makes for a somber podcast.  But one that is aimed to reach out and ask what role all can play with the elderly people needing friendship and companionship within our communities. 

Obituary For Albert Trull, Jr.

Written by James Wilson

Madison, WI and Tallahassee, FL—Dr. Albert Trull, Jr. passed away peacefully on October 29, 2012.  He was born June 10, 1928 in Birmingham, Alabama to Alberto and Pura (Carrilles) Trull, originally of Cien Fuegos and Havana, Cuba.   To his friends in Madison he is known as Albert, but those in Florida called him simply “Al”.

While in High School, Albert worked as an ‘engraving boy’ at the Birmingham News.  He recollected vividly the day President Franklin Delano Roosevelt died; he was working with the chemicals to create the plates from which images for a Special Edition would be printed.  With the money Albert earned at the paper, he set sail to discover the eastern seaboard and Cuba.

Albert graduated with honors from Alabama’s Auburn University and earned a degree in architecture.  He later earned from Florida State University his master’s degree in urban planning and a PhD in Education and Urban and Regional planning.  Albert served honorably at the Army’s Fort Belvoir, Virginia, where he taught architectural drawing for two years during the Korean War.  As a young man Albert lived in New York City and worked in the Daniel Schwartzman architectural firm, specializing in department store design.  One of his projects was the famed Macy’s Store of 34th Street where he designed a staff lounge and cafeteria.  Afterwards, he and a friend spent one year traveling across Europe, Middle East, and Africa.  They had boarded the S.S. Ryndam II of the Holland American Line where they spent the Christmas season waiting to arrive in Rotterdam, Holland, the first leg of their journey.

Albert moved in 1966 to Tallahassee, Florida where he opened his own architectural practice.  Among Albert’s major accomplishments are his work on the First Presbyterian Church, the Union Bank, and the Mental Health Building on Tennessee Street.  He also designed the city’s Parks and Recreation Administrative offices on Myers Park Drive.  Albert was not only President of his local Kiwanis, but also chairman of the Blue Print 2000 Committee, a commission set up by the city to guide the city remodel.  He served on Tallahassee’s first ever Code-Enforcement Board, helping draft the city’s Environmental Management Ordinance, and was deeply involved in the Gaines Street Revitalization Committee and the South Monroe Sector Plan.  The Mayor and Governing Body of Tallahassee proclaimed Albert Trull Jr. Day on June 25, 2003.

Albert wrote in 2006, “My passion is learning and improving my knowledge base.  I am now learning Spanish, ecology, history, spirituality and other related subjects.  I also attend concerts with my daughter who also lives in Madison.  My passion is learning from any source possible.”  Albert informed his Spanish instructor in Madison that he was learning the language so that he could talk to his mother in her own tongue when he got to ‘the other side’.

Albert leaves behind his beloved daughter, Anna Trull, Madison, WI; a sister, Mary Elizabeth Stewart, Blountstown, FL, and three nieces.  He will be fondly remembered by his friends Robert, Helena, Monica, Jim and Alistair; and former professor, James R. Wilson, and partner, Gregory Humphrey, who managed his affairs and care over the past few years.   Memorial donations may be made to the park where Albert gardened at Capital Neighborhood—Period Garden Park, P.O. Box 2613, Madison, WI  53701 (www.periodgardenpark.org).  Thank you, Albert, for being such a kind and loyal friend to so many.  Your compassion and care for others made this world a better place for all of us.

Letter From Home “Mother And Child Reunion” 10/29/12

The thing that first struck me about Albert Trull was the reason he joined my partner’s college language course.  James came home one night and told me an older student wanted to learn Spanish for the most unique of reasons.    Albert wanted to learn Spanish so when he passed away he could communicate in the native language of his mother who was born in Cuba.  Albert’s mother was Pura (Carrilles) that when translated means ‘pure sounds of the bell’.

One just does not forget a story like that.

Because Albert was unique in all the ways that makes someone truly special he soon became a friend who was invited for lunches at our home, along with political nights of convention watching or ballot counting.  There were long chats on our lawn, one truly grand afternoon of bowling, and wonderful meals at restaurants.  With the inclusion of other friends of his who lived at the Kennedy Manor James and I found ourselves laughing with a whole new group in Madison.

Albert was a most diversified conversationalist who could hold forth on the environment and the need for a green economy which was his favorite topic, or the reasons the nation needed universal health care.  He had a PhD in Urban Planning and worked 37 years at his architectural practice in Tallahassee, Florida.

Albert was simply an amazing man given his scope of interests, and his relaxed southern style of living life.  I never saw him mad at the world, but only at times frustrated with his own lack of abilities.

A couple of years after meeting Albert things started to change as the disease that would become the last chapter of his life started to manifest itself more clearly.

One day Albert asked James for help in setting up easier ways to do some simple everyday tasks.  That morphed into arranging on-line payments for bills.  In time James and I were seeking ways to make sure he was safe where he lived, and when that was no longer an option finding suitable housing for someone suffering with Alzheimer’s.

Along the way we learned enough about the process of how to advocate for someone with Alzheimer’s that we considered writing a book.  The court awarded guardianship of Albert to James, and local Alzheimer’s groups suggested we might think about helping by advising others facing the same issues.

We had moments of drama when we tangled with those who we knew did not provide service for Albert as promised.  But then we found angels who we praised as they understood that respect is something everyone deserves at all stages of life.

Never did we take our eyes off the goal, and that was following through on the promise we made to Albert at our kitchen table that we would look out for him right through the end. We did such a good job that he even referred to James and myself as “Albert’s Mafia”, and I must say at times a couple staff members at a certain facility did seem a bit more attentive to Albert’s needs when he used the term.

Today at 5:00 P.M. Albert passed away after having a rather typical day at the Badger Prairie Health Care Center, a truly exceptional and caring place with amazing staff..  There was no pain, and it was very quick, and as strange as it may sound given all that has happened, rather unexpected.  It looked as if he just fell into a calm sleep.

There was something sad, and yet comforting in the final image that I had of Albert.

James and I spent some time with Albert alone in his room before the funeral home arrived.  After he was placed on a stretcher under a blue quilt that resembled a homemade creation that grandma might have made he was wheeled out the side door behind the building.

I followed a few steps to the door that was held open by a staff member.   The night had fallen heavy and the funeral home worker pushed Albert into the darkness.  I could only make out the sidewalk for a short distance in the dark, and did not see the hearse.  But then I looked up and the hazy full moon shined back.

The thought that came to my mind was that somewhere a son is chatting with his Mom in pretty good Spanish tonight.

The body that had become a prison for Albert had released the soul.

I stepped back from the door, and it shut.  I turned to James and we hugged.

We had kept our promise made to a very special friend.

Albert Trull Speaks Of His life

Over the past months I have written from time to time about a special friend of ours that is facing a personal challenge.   Knowing that there are many folks in Florida, and elsewhere who know Albert Trull, and would like to see him again, I offer the following videos.  Today a new chapter of Albert’s life starts, and as that opening begins I offer the following, knowing that all his friends everywhere join James and me as we send best wishes to Albert.

“This is my wish for you: Comfort on difficult days, smiles when sadness intrudes, rainbows to follow the clouds, laughter on your face, sunsets to warm your heart, hugs when spirits sag, beauty for your eyes to see, friendships to brighten your being, faith so you can believe, confidence for when you have doubt, courage to know yourself, patience to accept the truth, love to complete your life”  (author unknown)