Alzheimer's Matters Blog

The Enduring Legacy of NFL Star Tommy Mason

July 6, 2016

Category: Supporter Stories

Karen and Tommy Mason

My husband, Tommy Mason, was larger than life. He was the #1 NFL draft pick in 1961, played in several Pro Bowls, and spent 12 years as a running back with the Minnesota Vikings, the LA Rams, and the Washington Redskins.

A Southern boy from small-town Louisiana, Tommy was as kind and humble as he was tall, handsome, and charming. His strong sense of loyalty, honor and respect—and his engaging sense of humor—drew his teammates and friends to him his entire life. These traits remained even as he endured the effects of Alzheimer’s.

Caregivers of loved ones with Alzheimer’s become changed people. Through the prism of the disease you’re swept into the undercurrent of suffering and loss, but also of remarkable compassion and humility. We experience the gradual tears in the fabric of our lives and do the best to mend the pieces where we are able. When a spouse is suffering, there are unspoken promises made. Mine was to protect Tommy and to keep him safe and loved. I’m grateful that I was able to do that with the support of his devoted caregivers, nurses, doctors, and my family and friends.

Tommy saw his life beyond football, in support of others, and I remember the day years ago when I came across the Alzheimer’s Drug Discovery Foundation (ADDF) and the Lauder family initiative in a magazine feature story. Tommy agreed that the ADDF’s mission—the laser focus on a cure for the next generation with 100% of gifts being given to research—was a vision he wanted to support through his trust. Sadly, it mattered all too soon as Tommy passed away in January 2015.

Now I draw much comfort from knowing the terrific staff at the ADDF, who make me feel that Tommy’s bequest is truly meaningful. I have visited the offices in New York City, met with its scientists and directors, and learned about ongoing research projects.

I am very grateful to have had a most darling husband and now, very honored to be a part of a great organization like the ADDF. It has given me one more reason to believe that Tommy Mason will be remembered not only for his achievements in the competitive world of sports, but also for his generous spirit and kindness to others.