It has been three years since my father died from Alzheimer’s at age 86. He donated his body to Science, thereby helping new doctors learn anatomy at Jefferson Memorial Hospital in Philadelphia.
A year ago, Dad was interred at Washington’s Crossing Veterans Cemetery in Pennsylvania, honored by a twenty one gun salute and a Navy bugler playing Taps. My mom received a folded American flag, and I placed a couple of his World War II medals next to his urn, a vase decorated with a white dove flying against an azure sky, while my sister, a professional opera singer, sang “Amazing Grace”. Our family members were in awe of the haunting beauty of the military ceremony among the rolling fields surrounding us.
Probably the hardest thing for me during the last two years of Dad’s life was seeing how he struggled to keep his brain intact and how frustrating it was for him to no longer be able to work, drive or remember the simplest things.
Dad spent decades devoting his life to science, medical devices, healthcare products and nutrition, building his successful medical advertising and design firm from scratch, and providing me with the opportunity to develop my own interests in science which had lain dormant during art school in New York City. Without this opportunity I may never have learned the skills to create the kinds of illustrations and animations that I am able to today.
Soon after Dad died I created this illustration interpreting the amyloid plaques and nerve deterioration characteristic of Alzheimer’s.
For my Dad’s contributions to medical communications and for all that he did for me, our family and countless others, I dedicate this illustration to my father, Hugh Elberson Phares.