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AIDS is a human disease.

AIDS IS A HUMAN DISEASE

He joked and laughed and clung to life even into his last hours. But this was a battle that no one wins.

At 8:30 p.m. on Friday, April 3, the last local direct descendant of a prominent and philanthropically minded Lafayette, Indiana, family died in his suburban Battle Ground home, "following a lengthy illness,' according to published reports.

The long illness that took the life of 58-year-old Edward S. Loeb was AIDS, and his wife, Deborah, now wants people to know that this is a disease that can strike in any family, in any home.

Loeb acquired the disease from a blood transfusion he received at St. Elizabeth Hospital during heart by-pass surgery in 1983, before blood could be tested for the virus.

Although his business associates, friends, and family knew what had happened, Mrs. Loeb now is making her first public statments on the death of her husband--a man whose family name is sprinkled across the community on theaters and fountains, baseball parks and stores.

Sitting in her home on a recent afternoon, she talked about the pain of watching someone wither away and die and her hopes to do something positive for other people in the future. "We didn't say anything publicly while he was sick. We wanted the time we had together to be quality time,' Mrs. Loeb says. "But we talked before he died about what we could do to help other people. And we made a pact that I would do what I could to let people know that this is something that can hit everyone.

"We're all so wrapped up in our own lives,' she says, "we think this is something we don't have to deal with. But we are going to have to deal with this. In this community, as small as it is, we have a high ratio of AIDS patients.

"We have been touched in this community. The general public doesn't know how much, but I do, because I've dealt with it from the inside. There are a lot of people in this community who know someone who is a victim, or is now dead from AIDS.'

Edward Loeb was diagnosed as an AIDS victim 16 months after his triple by-pass surgery. He was in the hospital, undergoing tests to find out why he had been ill, when his doctor walked into his room.

"Have you ever engaged in homosexual activity?' the doctor asked.

Loeb laughed and said, "Of course not.'

"Are you a drug abuser?' the doctor asked.

"Do I have AIDS?' Loeb asked.

Mrs. Loeb was stunned when she was told. What keeps rolling through her mind is her conversation with her husband just the night before they learned he had AIDS. They thought he only had pneumonia. "Honey, it's O.K. They can deal with pneumonia,' Mrs. Loeb had said. "It could be AIDS, and there's no cure for that.'

The kind of pneumonia he had is common among AIDS patients.

"He was very ill, and the doctor didn't think he was doing to live,' Mrs. Loeb says.

However, in the 23 months between the diagnosis and Loeb's death, the couple were able to do the things they enjoyed--golf, tennis, travel.

But Loeb was forced to sell the family business. He had been the general manager of Loeb's Inc. since 1964 and its president since 1973. "That was difficult,' Mrs. Loeb says. "He felt he had let the family down. But they were all behind him.

"There was never any anger,' she continues. "We would sit and cry sometimes, and say, "Why did this happen?' But then, why do people get cancer? Why do children die? There are awful things going on all the time, and we just had to look at it from that perspective.'

For a while, the Loebs told no one, not even his family. "We were warned not to tell people because of the repercussions,' Mrs. Loeb explains. "And we

didn't want people to feel sorry for us.'

But word spread through some segments of the community, and so the Loebs started telling their family and friends.

"The reaction we got was love and compassion,' Mrs. Loeb says.

Most of their friends just became closer. "We were very fortunate,' she says.

They needed friends, and that's one of the messages Mrs. Loeb wants to carry throughout the state: "Have some compassion for these people, because they need it.'

Photo: February 1985 found Deborah and Edward Loeb enjoying a vacation in St. Thomas. While on the island, however, he began coughing violently. Thus, AIDS began its relentless attack on this philanthropist, 56 at the time, whose family name has become familiar on theaters and fountains, baseball parks and stores throughout his community.

Photo: In the sunlit living room of her Lafayette, Indiana, home, Deborah Loeb talks about the pain of watching her robust, people-loving husband wither away and die, and how he joked and laughed and clung to life even into the last hours.

Photo: Edward Loeb, as he appeared in a St. Elizabeth Hospital annual report not long before his death. He bore no ill will and even took a job to help raise money for the hospital where he contracted AIDS through a transfusion.

Photo: Deborah Loeb says that when she and her husband, Edward, learned he and AIDS, they were advised not to tell people because of the repercussions. When word leaked out in the business community, however, the reaction was love and compassion. Instead of staying away, friends came over more often. They became closer. Deborah Loeb now works to help prevent the spread of AIDS.
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Author:Norberg, John
Publication:Saturday Evening Post
Date:Oct 1, 1987
Words:942
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