Sugar Ray Robinson: 1921 - 1989
Robinson’s career first started when he joined a boxing club at Salem Methodist Episcopal Church in Harlem, New York. Born Walker Smith Jr., Robinson established his nickname by borrowing an Amateur Athletic Union card from another boxer, Ray Robinson, to enter into his first fight. The creator of the boxing group, George Gainford nicknamed him “sugar” because he was “young and sweet as sugar.” From there, the nickname “Sugar Ray Robinson” caught on. He started his professional career with 40 straight victories and in 1939 he won his first Golden Glove title.
Robinson crossed weight classes throughout his career and is the reason why people recognize him as one of the greatest boxers of all time. Robinson won both the welterweight and middleweight belts, and in 1958, finished his 25-year career with a final record of 175 wins, 19 losses, and 2 draws. Robinson was inducted into the International Boxing Hall of Fame in 1960.
After retiring from boxing, Robinson worked in show business and settled down in Southern California. In his last years he battled with Alzheimer’s disease and diabetes and passed away on April 12, 1989. There is talk that all the head trauma may have caused the onset of his Alzheimer’s disease, but it is still unknown.
Ronald Reagan: 1911 - 2004
Ronald Reagan was born in Tampico, Illinois. He studied economics and sociology, played on the football team, and acted in school plays. After graduating from Eureka College, Reagan became a radio sports announcer and appeared in 53 films.
He was president of the Screen Actors Guild, and from there Reagan became heavily involved in the political side of the film industry. In 1966 he was elected Governor of California and was re-elected in 1970. Reagan was elected the 40th President of the United States in 1981 and was re-elected as President in 1985.
In November 1994, Reagan wrote a handwritten letter to the American people that he had been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease in hopes of raising awareness of the disease. 10 years later on June 5, 2004, he died at his Los Angeles home at age 93.
Rosa Parks: 1913 - 2005
Rosa Parks was born on February 4, 1913, in Tuskegee, Alabama. In 1955, after a long day of working as a seamstress, Parks took her designated seat on the Montgomery city bus and when asked to give up her seat by the bus driver, she refused. She was arrested later that day. On the day of her trial, many people of the African-American community boycotted city buses and opted to walk to work, school or stayed home, creating the Montgomery Bus Boycott.
Being named as one of the biggest civil rights activists, Parks received many accolades during her lifetime including the Spingarn Medal from the NAACP, the Martin Luther King Jr. Award, the Presidential Medal of Freedom given to her by President Bill Clinton, as well as the Congressional Gold Medal given by the legislative branch.
At 92, Rosa Parks died in Detroit, Michigan. In 2004, a year before her death she was diagnosed with progressive dementia.
Malcolm Young: 1953
Malcolm Young was born in Glasglow, Scotland in 1963. He was the founder and guitarist of the legendary classic rock band, AC/DC. His older brother, George, was in a band and at an early age. Young was inspired to learn how to play guitar. AC/DC was formed in 1973 in Australia by Young and his brother Angus after his previous band, the Velvet Underground broke up.
Touring multiple times around the world, selling millions of records, and named the fifth-best selling band in US history, AC/DC was inducted in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2003.
Malcolm Young announced his retirement from music in 2014 due to dementia. His family reported that he has complete loss of his short-term memory.
Estelle Getty: 1923 - 2008
Estelle Scher (Getty) was born on July 25, 1923, on the Lower East Side of Manhattan in New York City. In her early life, Getty performed in different theaters and Broadway shows. She had her first career breakthrough in 1980 playing a Jewish mother in Torch Song Trilogy, which earned her the Drama Desk Award nomination in 1982 and later made a few TV guest appearances.
In 1985, she took the roll as Sophia Petrillo on the hit series The Golden Girls. Her performance, alongside the other others in the sitcom series, earned her an Emmy Award for Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Comedy Series in 1988.
Originally thought to have Parkinson’s disease, Getty retired from acting in 2000, but was later diagnosed with Lewy Body Dementia, which is an umbrella term for two related diagnoses (dementia and Parkinson’s). Lewy Body Dementia is the second most common form of degenerative dementia and affects an estimated 1.4 million people in the United States.
You can learn more about Lewy Body Dementia at www.lbda.org.
She lived at her home in California for the last years of her life with the support and care from her family, and passed away in 2008.
Other iconic celebrities that have lived with some form of Alzheimer’s disease include Robin Williams, James Stewart, Evelyn Keyes, Norman Rockwell and many more. You can find an extended list here
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