The Gene Guillotine: An Early-Onset Alzheimer’s Memoir   Buy Book   

Family History

Julia Tatro Noonan (my grandmother) and her sister ,  Agnes Tatro, were identical twins born in April of 1924.  Their parents, Lawrence Tatro and Lilian Knightly Tatro, did not show any signs of memory trouble.

Julia married John Noonan.  She was 39 and had ten children when she developed noticeable memory impairment.  Julia was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s  disease(AD) at the age of 43 and died at the age of 54 from complications with pneumonia.

Agnes was 51 at her onset of  AD.  Agnes died at age 61 from complications related to lung cancer.

My mother, Maureen Noonan Preskenis , was the second of ten children to whom Julia gave birth.  Maureen began what I felt were obvious signs of Alzheimer’s disease in the early fall after she turned 50.  The defining moment for me was when she forgot the same thing three times within four hours.  When I look back further, I am able to see other symptoms, but didn’t know at the time they were associated with AD. She stopped making meals, doing laundry, and was not steady on her feet.  These symptoms date back to age 47 or 48.

My father recognized her symptoms as AD in January when she was 51,  and Mom recognized it that summer after she turned 52.  The official diagnosis was, I believe, the following November.  Mom died at the age of 58.  However, if she hadn’t had a strong living will, it is conceivable she would have lasted much longer with nutritional drinks, supplements, and tube feeding.

My aunt, Fran Noonan Powers, was Maureen’s younger sibling by six years.  Mom and Fran developed Alzheimer’s symptoms around the same time, despite the difference in their age.  Fran was 43.  Her official diagnosis was at age 45.  Fran entered a nursing home when she was 51, and died at the age of 54.

My uncle, Butch Noonan, was Maureen’s younger sibling by 8 years.  He developed symptoms at the age of 45, and was diagnosed when he was 49.  Butch videotaped his end of life wishes along with providing the traditional paperwork.  Butch passed away at age 58.

My uncles John and Eryc Noonan started a bike ride called the Memory Ride to raise money for Alzheimer’s research in 1997.  Patty, Julie, Fran, John, Eryc, Butch, and Bob were the Noonan siblings that were present for the first Memory Ride.  Many of these siblings and their children are still active in the ride.

Copyright Kate Preskenis 2010