Chris Pendergast, Who Fought A.L.S. Mile After Mile, Dies at 71



In addition to his wife, Christine (Martin) Pendergast, a past president of the Port Jefferson Station Teachers Association on Long Island, he is survived by a son, Christopher, who is known as Buddy; a daughter, Melissa Scriven; and a grandson.

Mr. Pendergast and his wife chronicled the family’s collaborative effort to confront A.L.S. in a book, “Blink Spoken Here: Tales From a Journey to Within,” which was published this year. The title comes from the eye-tracker computer that uses infrared light to substitute for oral speech when patients lose their voice.

After retiring from teaching in 2003, Mr. Pendergast often made public appearances, including a visit to Northport High School last February, to extol the power of perseverance when confronting adversity.

In 2005, when he spoke to elementary students at a school on East 103rd Street in Manhattan, across from Gehrig’s birthplace, “you could hear a pin drop,” Christine Pendergast said.

Gehrig, Mr. Pendergast told The Times in 2009, “taught me that the human spirit can transcend any affliction. I am now a quadriplegic, using a feeding tube and an external ventilator for part of the day. But with Lou as a model, I still feel I have an awful lot to live for.”

In the foreword to the Pendergasts’ book, Jonathan Eig, the author of “Luckiest Man: The Life and Death of Lou Gehrig” (2005), writes, “Chris shows he is a worthy heir to the Lou Gehrig line.”

Echoing Gehrig, Mr. Pendergast insisted that he was lucky in his own way.

“There’s no doubt that being involved actively in fighting the disease in this form is life-lengthening,” he said in 2005. “We can’t undergo chemotherapy or invasive types of surgical procedures to allow us to fight back against the disease, so we have a choice of laying down and doing nothing and allowing the disease to steamroll right over us, or to fight back with spirit and get involved.”

“That is our only medicine,” he added.



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