Popular doctor loses battle to Alzheimer’s
After battling Alzheimer’s disease for six years, Dr. Edward Durst took his last breath surrounded by family and staring into the eyes of his true love just as “Amen” was spoken at the conclusion of the Lord’s Prayer.
Dr. Durst, who endured a hard-fought, six-year battle with Alzheimer’s and Vascular Dementia, died Saturday. He was 79.
Durst served the Owatonna community for 28 years as a general practice surgeon before retiring in 2002.
In 2019, the Durst family was recognized as the honorary family for the Owatonna Walk to End Alzheimer’s. The family appropriately dubbed itself as “Doc’s Crew” for the walk.
Durst’s wife, Anna, who serves as a nurse at Owatonna High School, took care of him in the early years of his Alzheimer’s. However, in March 2019, she was no longer able to care for him and he had to be confined into a memory care unit in Owatonna under 24-hour supervision.
“It’s a terrible disease,” Anna said in a 2019 interview. “It steals your person. You still see your person as who they are on the outside, but they are just dwindling away on the inside.”
When he was moved into memory care, Durst still recognized his wife but no longer knew any other family members. The couple has six children and several grandchildren. His condition left family members devastated.
“We try to remember it’s the disease, not him,” Anna said. “We try to remember the person he was.”
Anna shared how many families of loved ones with Alzheimer’s are embarrassed. “People shouldn’t be embarrassed to have this disease,” she said. “When people have cancer, they run toward you, but when people are diagnosed with Alzheimer’s, they run away,” she added.
Anna said moving her husband into memory care was the hardest decision of her life. And it left her with an enormous amount of guilt.
“I’m a nurse. I thought I should be able to take care of him until the end, but I cannot do it alone,” Anna said.
Through the struggles, Anna took comfort in seeing him with a sense of humor. “He is generally pretty happy, and thankfully he doesn’t remember all that he has lost,” she said.
The family wrote In his obituary: “Even though the ravages of dementia stole so much from him, he was known for his gift of humor and continued to share this to the end.”
Durst was born in Augusta, Ga., on Feb. 7, 1942. He served in the U.S. Army Medical Corps from 1972-74 and practiced general surgery in Mississippi and Missouri before settling in Owatonna in 1984. He had a thriving practice at Owatonna Clinic until he retired in July 2012.