Alan M. Shapiro raced at full speed through all his endeavors, from proposing marriage to professional pursuits. Because early onset Alzheimer's disease cheated him of time, he dashed through life with the drive of an Olympian.
On Sept. 11, the 67-year-old Edina father of three lost the biggest race of all to a disease he could not outrun. After living for 17 years with Alzheimer's, he died from its complications. It was the same malady that had robbed him of his father, Sidney, and his brother, Bobby.
"I've never experienced someone with such an incredible drive," said his son Mark Shapiro. "He worked so hard. He thought he was capable of anything and everything."
Along with his family, Shapiro worked hard as an advocate for Alzheimer's disease awareness and research. The Shapiros posted YouTube videos, spoke at conferences and met with lawmakers, even as their father and husband lost his ability to run through life.
Shapiro grew up in Minneapolis with two brothers who helped fuel his competitive spirit. Running for the St. Louis Park High School track team, he became state champion in the mile relay.
He continued running on the University of Minnesota track and field team, where he lettered four times from 1967 to 1971.
After completing his undergraduate studies, Shapiro headed to Guadalajara, Mexico, for medical school. But when his father's Alzheimer's was diagnosed, he returned to Minnesota to help run the family printing business, all the while taking night classes at William Mitchell College of Law in St. Paul.
He cared for his father until he died, then started Shapco Printing Inc. with his brothers.
Shapiro met his wife-to-be, Carol, around that time. One day after an introductory three-hour phone conversation with her, Shapiro — wasting no time — dashed to her house. They dated for two weeks before Shapiro proposed.
One of his inspirations for acting so quickly was the eulogy at his father's funeral.
"The rabbi spoke about his father being the trunk of the tree and the roots, and his three boys could go on and form their own branches and have their own families," Carol Shapiro said. "That was so meaningful to him. That night he decided without a ring to propose."
The two were married in December 1974 and lived in St. Paul, where Shapiro worked as the prosecutor for the city attorney's office. They later moved to Edina.
"He was an incredible role model," his son said. "I wanted to be just like him."
In his spare time, Shapiro served as the president of the University of Minnesota's "M" Letterman's Club. He organized a Gophers spring football ticket drive that broke records. He also founded the "M" Club raffle, which raised money for U athletics. One year during the raffle, the mother of a U baseball player won a car. The NCAA deemed that special treatment of an athlete. Shapiro challenged the NCAA and had the regulations changed.
"My dad wanted to do what was right," said son Mark.
His family now plans to continue to do right by their father and advocate for the disease that took so much from them.
Carol Shapiro joined the Alzheimer's Association and became ambassador of the disease for Sen. Al Franken. "I needed a way to fight back," she said.
In addition to his wife and son Mark, Shapiro is survived by another son, Scott, a daughter, Stacy, and two grandchildren.
Services have been held.