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Richard F. Wier, teacher and Alzheimer’s activist

Nov. 24, 1942 – Feb. 18, 2016

Richard Francis Wier, a retired Kenmore West High School teacher whose struggles with Alzheimer’s disease gained wide attention locally, died Thursday in Greenfield Health and Rehabilitation Center, Lancaster. He was 73.

Born in Buffalo, he grew up on the West Side, the son of a teacher and a school principal, and was a 1960 graduate of Canisius High School.

After earning a bachelor’s degree from Buffalo State College in 1964, he enlisted in the Marine Corps.

He served in the Vietnam War and rose to the rank of captain. He received several citations, among them a Bronze Star with a “V” for valor in combat. He was discharged in 1967.

Mr. Wier earned a master’s degree in education from Buffalo State and taught social studies for 33 years at Kenmore West, where he was known as an enthusiastic, energetic teacher, well-liked by his students.

Dedicated to health and fitness, he kayaked, rode a bicycle and was an avid hiker. In retirement, his goal was to walk the entire length of the Appalachian Trail from Georgia to New England.

After nearly a decade of summer hikes on the trail, he had completed all but a couple hundred miles in Maine when, in August 2008, he found that he was stumbling and unable to follow the blaze marks along the path.

He went back to his car and, despite getting lost several times, managed to get to his home in Buffalo.

Mr. Wier became a public figure locally in Alzheimer’s treatment in 2011 when he and his wife appeared on a local radio program to raise awareness and funds for research.

He also was featured in articles about Alzheimer’s in 2012 in The Buffalo News, which followed his struggles against the progression of the disease.

To accommodate his declining abilities, he and his wife moved to a home in Cheektowaga where he would be less likely to fall, but he continued to be active as long he was able, attending cultural events, going out to restaurants and walking for exercise in Eastern Hills Mall.

Survivors include his wife of 46 years, the former Barbara Kanski, a retired nurse; two daughters, Patricia Potempa and Katherine Smielecki; a sister, Carol Tank; and four grandchildren.

A Mass of Christian Burial will be offered at 10 a.m. Tuesday in St. Philip the Apostle Catholic Church, 950 Losson Road, Cheektowaga.

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