Governor Mills: In honor of all those living with ALS and in memory of those we have lost.

September 2, 2022

ALS, also known as Lou Gehrig’s Disease, is a debilitating disease that may rob people of their physical abilities, but it does not rob them of their heart, their love, or their spirit.

Hello, this is Governor Janet Mills and thank you for listening.

Last weekend, I joined the Bangor Walk to Defeat ALS in solidarity with families and in honor of all those living with ALS and in memory of those we have lost to this disease.

Like many people across Maine, I have lost friends to ALS, friends like George Smith. George Smith was an avid sportsman, a prolific writer, and a good-natured friend to all. He was the very embodiment of the character of Maine: strong but kind, independent, compassionate, wise but humble.

George’s decades-long advocacy contributed to the preservation and protection of hundreds of acres of forests, lands, lakes, and streams across our state that now will be enjoyed by untold generations to come.

George Smith’s love and respect for our great state is only surpassed by the love its people, including this Governor and other governors, had for him. His lived his life to the fullest, even as he fought ALS with his characteristic grit, fortitude, and courage to the very end. 

I also lost another individual to ALS. Joe Mayo was the clerk of the Maine House of Representatives, very well-known individual, and a former state representative, very popular, well-liked, and someone who successfully fought for legislation to ease the suffering of people with ALS at the end of their lives.

Well this past legislative session, I was pleased to sign a new bill in honor of George Smith and Joe Mayo and others, and at the request of Karin Tilberg, who also lost her husband, Chris Smith, to ALS recently. This bill, LD 2007 creates a mandatory statewide registry for ALS so we can all better understand the prevalence of the disease in Maine and maybe reach a cure or some way of preventing the disease from taking hold in the first place. 

Now we can learn more about the potential causes of the disease. Now we can better support patients living with the disease and their families. And, with the rate of Maine veterans with ALS being at least twice the national average, greater awareness can also help us ensure that veterans get the benefits that they might be owed.

I want to thank Senator Ned Claxton of Auburn and Representative Laurie Osher of Orono for sponsoring this legislation and for securing unanimous support for the bill in the Legislature. I was proud and pleased to sign it into law.

It is my fervent hope that this law will improve our understanding of this terrible disease until we can defeat ALS, once and for all, in the memory of baseball great Lou Gehrig and many hometown heroes as well.  

This is Governor Janet Mills and thank you for listening.