Educator Bruce Kramer, who chronicled his life with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) in a blog, Minnesota Public Radio (MPR) series and in his memoir, We Know How This Ends: Living While Dying, died March 23 at his home in Hopkins. He was 59 years old.
Kramer died just days before a packed house attended the launch event for his book, which he wrote with MPR “Morning Edition” host Cathy Wurzer. The book describes Kramer’s life with ALS, a progressive neurodegenerative disease, and how he learned to live fully despite life changes and loss.
Kramer, a faculty member at University of St. Thomas (UST) since 1996, most recently served as dean of St. Thomas’ College of Education, Leadership and
Counseling. He took a leave of absence in October 2012, almost two years after his ALS was diagnosed.
“On behalf of the St. Thomas community, I want to offer our condolences to Bruce’s family,” UST President Julie Sullivan said. “Bruce was an exceptional faculty member and dean, and the lessons he taught us in how to handle a terminal illness with perseverance, wisdom and grace will long serve as an inspiration to all of us.”
Kramer’s Dis Ease Diary was his blog. He and his wife Evelyn shared thoughts about life with ALS and disability. The blog was meant to teach about ALS and share the emotions about the life changes he and his family faced. “By focusing on Dis Ease, and the disease of ALS,” he told St. Thomas magazine, “it would be very easy for the reader to say, ‘Poor bastard, there but by the grace of God go I.’ Well, you’re there, too – you’re just not (dying) as quickly as I am. Maybe I can offer you some insights as I deal with these things.”
In the first of his 117 blog posts, Kramer wrote, “The idea here is that, even as the motor neurons come unconnected, the love, life, light and joy in all of us, even in the darkest times, becomes unified. I admit this is very selfish, for I find that in the notes, letters, cards and just chance meetings since my diagnosis, I am strengthened and energized for the days ahead. That is what love can do for us.”
He also worked with the ALS Center of Excellence at Hennepin County Medical Center on classes and information to help people with ALS and their families. He spoke about ALS at events. Kramer also participated, via Skype, in an ALS ice bucket challenge in September 2014. That event involved more than 200 UST students, staff and facility.
Kramer was a native of Missouri and began his career as a high school music teacher. He and his family lived all over the world before he came to the Twin Cities in 1996. He was highly regarded at St. Thomas, winning its 2011 Diversity Leadership Award for his efforts to recruit faculty and students of color.
Kramer is survived by his wife Evelyn, two sons and many other family members and friends. A memorial service is 10:30 a.m. April 11 at Christ Presbyterian Church, 6901 Normandale Road, Edina.