One year later, Duerson's family still coping

Otis Wilson, Dave's former Bears teammate and Brock's godfather, has been a rock for the family. He even accompanied them to Florida shortly after Dave's death.

Connie Payton, the widow of Walter Payton, and her children, Jarrett and Brittney, have helped the Duersons cope with having their ordeal play out in public.

Memories have helped sustain them as well.

The Giants' recent run to the Super Bowl title brought Alicia back to the 1990 season, when her husband played on a Super Bowl champion Giants team. That team, like the 2011 Giants, got to the Super Bowl by beating the 49ers on a field goal in the NFC championship game.

"It brought me back immediately," Alicia said. "Giants over San Francisco. I remembered the excitement we had at that time. It was a nice flashback."

Duerson never went to the White House to celebrate that Super Bowl, or the one he won with the Bears. After the 1985 season, the White House visit was canceled after the Space Shuttle Challenger exploded. After the 1990 season, the Giants didn't go because President George Bush was occupied with the Persian Gulf War.

So Alicia was thrilled to represent her husband when the 1985 Bears finally were invited to visit the White House last fall.

"Oh, God, Dave would have loved it," she said. "He talked about it every time a Super Bowl team was going, that he wished his team had gone. I'm so thankful the Bears let me go and represent him."

Alicia had a private conversation with President Barack Obama and was surprised and impressed that he knew a lot about her husband's circumstances and even talked about how he enjoyed watching him play.

More than anything, what has given the Duerson family peace was the Boston University study that confirmed Duerson suffered from chronic traumatic encephalopathy, a brain disease brought on by trauma. The 50-year-old shot himself in the heart rather than the head, and his last wish was that his brain be donated for study.

"You always wonder why somebody would take their own life," Alicia said. "You look for that answer. Boston University really helped us have closure on that."

Said Tregg, "I understand why he did it now."

One year later, the arduous process of coming to terms with it continues for the Duerson family.

dpompei@tribune.com

Twitter @danpompei
CHICAGO

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