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For Mayor Martin J. Walsh, Alzheimer’s disease and its burdens hit home

Martin J. Walsh (left) was with his grandmother Mary Anne O’Malley, aunt Barbara Leahy, and mother Mary Walsh in Ireland. Walsh said his grandmother had Alzheimers disease.
Martin J. Walsh (left) was with his grandmother Mary Anne O’Malley, aunt Barbara Leahy, and mother Mary Walsh in Ireland. Walsh said his grandmother had Alzheimers disease.WALSH FAMILY

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Martin J. Walsh walked in the door to visit his grandmother at her Irish farmhouse, and she didn’t know who he was.

Mary Ann O’Malley didn’t remember her own daughter, either. By the time she had reached her early 80s, O’Malley had forgotten much of what she once knew intimately.

“We would walk in the house,” Walsh said in an interview, “and she would ask who we were.”

Memories of his late grandmother in the stranglehold of Alzheimer’s disease have inspired Boston’s new mayor to make improved services for people with Alzheimer's and their families among his earliest missions in office.

While Walsh’s struggles with cancer as a child and alcoholism as a young man became well known during the campaign, his family’s history with Alzheimer’s was news to many, who learned of it during his inaugural speech Monday.

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