People from the phases of Duerson's life — his childhood, his playing days, his business life and his family — remain in disbelief.

During a memorial installment of Duerson's Internet radio show, his fiancee acknowledged she is struggling with what happened. "I know that my baby's soul is in a better place and he is at peace — so that I feel good about," Sykes said. "But I miss him here in the physical world."

The only other player from the 1985 Super Bowl champion Bears who is gone is Payton. He died in 1999 of liver disease.

"Being aware of (Duerson's) personality, it was shocking to me," said Richard Dent, who with Duerson was part of the Bears' great draft class of 1983. "I felt pain. He had a house on a lake in Mundelein, and we all used to hang out there. Back then, I always thought he would be a politician. He was so strong-minded, always fighting for something better for the players and former players. Maybe at the age of 50, he just couldn't see the light at the end of the tunnel anymore."

Back in Muncie, Hays put it this way: "When I found out it was suicide … I just couldn't believe it. It didn't make any sense. I'm sure his thinking wasn't right.

"What a great thing to donate his brain, thinking of others."

There are no indications Duerson was seeking help for depression.

"I knew he was depressed, but not to the point of taking his life," Alicia Duerson said. "Dave was a strong man. He loved life. He loved helping others. He would always put everything and everyone first before himself. I guess a lot of things caved in for him."

Family problems. Financial trouble. Fear that his brain was failing him.

Now Dave Duerson is gone. He shot himself, in the heart.

Tribune Newspapers reporter Juan Ortega contributed from Florida.