Ron Wyden’s brother dead at 51

From the Associated Press, October 30, 2002

Jeffrey Alan Wyden, brother of U.S. Sen. Ron Wyden, died Tuesday at a hospital in California, the senator’s office said. He was 51.

Jeffrey Wyden died at Valley Medical Center in San Jose, Calif., said Josh Kardon, chief of staff for Sen. Wyden. He said the cause of death was still being determined.

Jeffrey Wyden struggled with schizophrenia for three decades, passing through numerous hospitals, clinics and treatments. When he died, he had been living at a halfway house in San Jose, Kardon said.

Jeffrey Wyden’s illness was chronicled in a moving book written by the Wyden brothers’ father, Peter Wyden, titled “Conquering Schizophrenia: A Father, His Son and a Medical Breakthrough.”

The 1998 book brought renewed attention to schizophrenia, a disease suffered by an estimated 2 million Americans.

“Jeff was an inspiration to all who knew him. He was a courageous fighter against his disease. He never gave up fighting it,” Sen. Wyden said of his brother.

Jeffrey Wyden came from a widely respected family.

Oregonians elected his brother, Ron, to the U.S. House in 1980 and re-elected him to seven consecutive terms. He was elected to the U.S. Senate in 1996.

Their father, Peter, escaped from Nazi Germany with his Jewish parents in 1937 and moved to the United States. Peter Wyden became a prolific author, writing books about the 1961 “Bay of Pigs” invasion of Cuba and the Berlin Wall, among other topics.

Peter Wyden married Edith Rosenow in 1947. Ron was born in 1949, and Jeff two years later. After the parents divorced in 1959, Edith and the boys moved from Chicago to California and Peter Wyden moved to New York City.

While watching one son win elections, Peter watched the other battle with schizophrenia. But in conversations with friends, Peter Wyden expressed a great deal of pride in both of them.

After the book was published, People magazine published a piece about Jeffrey’s struggles with schizophrenia and his father’s crusade to find a cure.

As a child, Jeffrey Wyden was charming, artistic and energetic. But he began to show personality changes in early adolescence. He grew withdrawn and eventually become disconnected from reality.

While a 21-year-old student at Stanford University, Jeffrey Wyden was diagnosed with schizophrenia. During the next three decades, he went through an array of treatments that included psychoanalysis, electroshock, hypnosis and difficult drug therapies.

A new anti-psychotic drug called Olanzapine gave the Wyden family hope. The drug made Jeffrey more lucid, less irritable and more sociable.

“The ugly years have been whisked away like a dilapidated stage set,” Peter Wyden wrote optimistically in his book. “I’m in San Jose now for the first time in six months and the changes in Jeff are difficult to believe.”

But lasting changes apparently did not materialize.

Kardon, Ron Wyden’s chief of staff, said Tuesday the drug was helpful for awhile but ultimately it did not produce the hoped-for results.

In the acknowledgments section of Peter Wyden’s book, he saved the last one for Jeffrey: “He will always will be — I need to say it again — my hero.”

Kardon said Jeffrey Wyden had no children and never married.

Jeffrey Wyden is survived by his brother and mother, who lives in Palo Alto, Calif. Peter Wyden died four years ago in Connecticut.