Glenn I. Kirkland, 1919-2008

On August 11, 2008, Glenn I. Kirkland, secretary of the Nehemiah Ministries board of directors, died at his home at Riderwood Village in Silver Spring , Maryland , of complications resulting from dialysis. He was 89, and had been a Maryland resident since 1945.

Glenn was born on April 8, 1919, in Hays Borough, Pennsylvania , which later became part of Pittsburgh . His mother, Elizabeth Pollock Kirkland, was a school teacher, and his father, Emmett Kirkland, a carpenter. He was one of five siblings, and was their last survivor. During his early teens, Glenn built several radios capable of receiving short-wave signals, and at 16 earned his radio amateurs license.

He graduated from Taylor-Allderdice High School in Pittsburgh , then earned both bachelors and masters degrees in physics from the Carnegie Institute of Technology. He also completed the coursework toward a doctorate in physics, before World War II interrupted his studies. He moved to Silver Spring , Maryland in 1945, and began working for Johns Hopkins University ’s Applied Physics Laboratory. He became a member of their Principal Professional Staff, and retired in 1984 after 39 years of service. At APL he helped develop the VT fuse, a supersonic guide missile telemetry system, the AEGIS weapon system, and also performed missile flight test analysis.

In 1949 Glenn married Grace Mize, an office assistant at the Treasury Department. They had one child, Evelyn, in 1951, who married Dr. M. Blaine Smith in 1973. In 1977 at the age of 66, Grace was diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease and began the slow, inexorable deterioration of her mental capacities, until she died in 1990. A year later Glenn married Barbara Shytle Denny, and they have enjoyed seventeen years together. .

Grace’s battle with Alzheimer’s disease inspired Glenn to devote himself during his retirement years to problems of aging and care-giving. He was a relentless advocate on behalf of families touched by Alzheimer’s. With few resources, he initiated support groups throughout Maryland , enabling family caregivers to draw support from one another. He gained the attention of policy makers in his efforts to promote the development of supportive services and funding for Alzheimer’s research. In 1977, he helped found the Alzheimer’s Disease Association of Maryland , then became it’s first president; it became the Baltimore chapter of the Alzheimer’s Association when that organization formed a year later. He helped to organize the Maryland Association of Adult Day Care Centers and was its first president. Later he served as Secretary to the Board of Directors of the Maryland Gerontological Association.

Glenn’s greatest contribution to creating public awareness about Alzheimer’s, though, was his decision to open his private life to documentary filmmakers from University of Maryland . The award-winning team of William T. Whiteford and Susan Hadary filmed Glenn and Grace’s journey over seven years of the devastating progression of the disease. The resulting videos have been called “the definitive work on the longitudinal study of Alzheimer’s disease,” and have been shown world-wide as teaching aids in the care of people with dementia. Glenn became a sought-after speaker to present the films at workshops and conferences, and a half-hour documentary produced from this material, “Living with Grace,” aired frequently on public television channels.

Glenn was a Fellow of the American Scientific Affiliation, a life member of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, a life member of the Electrical and Electronic Engineers, and a life member of the Amateur Radio Relay League. He was also a member of Phi Kappa Phi, and a long-time member of Fourth Presbyterian Church of Bethesda, Maryland, serving on their session. He was also secretary of the board of Nehemiah Ministries, since its inception in 1978.      

In 2001, Glenn and Barbara moved from their home in North Potomac, Maryland to Riderwood Village , a Continuing Care Retirement Community, in Silver Spring , Maryland . There Glenn helped to organize the Riderwood Village Church , worked as a cameraman and announcer for Channel 99, and sang with both the Riderwood Village Church choir and the male vocal group “The Balladeers.”

A memorial service will be held for Glenn on Sunday, August 31, 2008, at the Riderwood Village Chapel, 3110 Gracefield Rd. , Silver Spring , MD 20904 . In lieu of flowers, donations may be made to the Maryland Alzheimer’s Association. Earmark your check “The Glenn Kirkland Fund,” and mail to: Alzheimer’s Association, 1850 York Road , Suite D, Timonium , MD 21093-5142. You may also contribute to them by phone, at 410-561-9099.

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