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StoryCorps in Kalamazoo: Alzheimer's disease is a constant in one marriage

The StoryCorps mobile booth near Bronson Park in Kalamazoo
Jack Perlstein

The conversation between Jim Kruse and Bertha Bullen was recorded during the StoryCorps Mobile tour stop in Kalamazoo.

Jim Kruse and Bertha Bullen say there has been one "commonality" all the way through their marriage - Alzheimer’s disease.

“We’ve had 40 years of dealing with Alzheimer’s disease, together,” said Bertha.

The couple talked about their marriage and family members who have suffered from Alzheimer’s disease during the StoryCorps Mobile tour stop in Kalamazoo.

Even before they were married, Bertha said Jim’s mother was already well into dementia when the couple first met.

Bertha said the signs of her grandmother’s illness began when she was barricading herself in her apartment. Bertha was managing the apartment building, and said her grandmother was afraid.

Jim said they have come to know three characteristics associated with Alzheimer’s disease – “The wandering of course, another thing we have run into is the ‘I want go home’ and the repetitive questions."

Jim said home is somewhere in time, not a physical place. Jim said his mother would ask to go home and see her father, even though her father had been deceased for decades.

One time, Jim said, he finally pointed out to his mother that her father had been dead for 60 years.

“And she looked at me, and said ‘he’s not that dead!’ and that just left me speechless,” said Jim.

Jack began working at WMUK as a WMU music student in 1973. He was a member of the United States Army Field Band, Washington, DC from 1974 - 1977, and returned to WMUK as a producer/announcer in 1978. Jack was an announcer and programmer for WITF-TV/FM in Harrisburg, PA from 1983-1984. In 1984 he became Music Director of WWFM /WWNJ, The Classical Network, in Trenton, New Jersey. Jack returned to WMUK in 1999.
Gordon Evans became WMUK's Content Director in 2019 after more than 20 years as an anchor, host and reporter. A 1990 graduate of Michigan State, he began work at WMUK in 1996.