Trish Vradenburg, Sitcom Writer and Advocate in Fight Against Alzheimer's, Dies at 70

Courtesy of the Vradenburg family
Trish Vradenburg and her husband George

She worked on 'Designing Women,' 'Family Ties' and 'Kate & Allie.'

Trish Vradenburg, a playwright and sitcom writer who worked on Designing Women, Family Ties and Kate & Allie and became a leading advocate in the fight against Alzheimer's disease, has died. She was 70.

Vradenburg died Monday of a heart attack at her home in Washington, her publicist announced.

A native of Newark, N.J., Vradenburg, the daughter of a judge, graduated from Boston University and began her career as a speechwriter for New Jersey Sen. Harrison Williams.

Starting in 1985, she wrote for the CBS sitcoms Kate & Allie, starring Susan Saint James and Jane Curtin, Everything's Relative, starring Jason Alexander, and Linda Bloodworth-Thomason's Designing Women, and then did an installment of NBC's Michael J. Fox starrer Family Ties in 1988.

Vradenburg wrote a 1986 novel, Liberated Lady, and her byline appeared in such publications as the New York Daily News, Boston Globe, The Washington Post, Ladies' Home Journal and Women's Day.

In 2010, she and her husband — former Fox, CBS, AOL and AOL Time Warner attorney George Vradenburg — founded the organization UsAgainstAlzheimer's, dedicated to finding a cure by 2020.

Her mother, Bea Lerner, lived with the disease. She described her as a "powerful, dynamic woman — invited personally to JFK's inaugural as a thank you for handing him New Jersey — who had suddenly become a confused, helpless person." 

She wrote about her experiences caring for her mother in the play Surviving Grace, which was produced at the Kennedy Center, the Union Square Theatre in New York (where Illeana Douglas starred) and throughout the U.S. and other countries. 

As she said in an UsAgainstAlzheimer's blog post: "A cure for Alzheimer's: a fantasy, a wish, an impossible dream; the same words that were said to Galileo, Edison, Curie, Salk and whoever dreamed up the Internet. Yesterday's dream is today's reality."

In addition to her husband, survivors include her daughter Alissa and son-in-law Michael; son Tyler and daughter-in-law Jeannine; grandchildren Harrison, Skyler, May and Gavin; and brother Michael and sister-in-law Cat.

A private family service will take place this week in Los Angeles, followed by a public memorial in Washington on May 9. Donations can be made to the Bea Lerner Fund of UsAgainstAlzheimer's Network.