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AIDS Claims 3rd Hemophiliac Brother : Medicine: They are thought to have contracted the virus from infected blood products. A fourth son killed himself because of pain from hemophilia, mother says. Fifth son and three daughters are not hemophiliacs.

October 16, 1994|SUSAN SEVAREID | ASSOCIATED PRESS

KASOTA, Minn. — Near the end, Les Gimmer couldn't bring himself to visit his youngest brother, to see him dying of AIDS back in 1990--for Les knew that's where he would be one day.

That day came Sept. 23. Les died on the eve of his 40th birthday--the third of four hemophiliac brothers to die of AIDS. The fourth brother committed suicide.

Their mother, Jeanette Gimmer, called Les' death a relief. "That's a terrible thing to say, but hopefully this is over now for a while," she said before the memorial service in this town of 650.

Her fifth son and her three daughters are not hemophiliacs.

The Gimmer brothers are thought to have contracted the AIDS virus from infected blood products for hemophiliacs in the early 1980s, before screening and treatment of blood for the virus became routine.

In 1990, Donnie Gimmer became the first brother to die of AIDS, succumbing at age 24.

Les and his brother Scott were diagnosed with the AIDS virus on the same day in 1985. Scott, to whom Les was particularly close, died a year ago at age 40. Their ashes were buried together in a private ceremony.

As for Charlie, Gimmer said pain in his joints--a common problem for hemophiliacs--and other problems became too much for him to bear. He killed himself in 1981 at age 33.

The Rev. Ken Stuber, who officiated at services for Scott and Les, said he had never been close to anyone with AIDS before he came to First Presbyterian Church in Kasota 1 1/2 years ago.

Les, an aide who worked at a hospital with the mentally ill and retarded, had been looking for a church where he would feel comfortable. The two men were the same age and shared musical tastes.

"I said to him, 'I don't care how you got AIDS, I just think it's not fair,' " Stuber said.

Until Les' health deteriorated, they would go to movies together or for walks at the Mankato State University campus that Les had attended.

"Les and I put a sermon together a few months after I moved here," Stuber said. "I was comparing AIDS to leprosy back in Jesus' day . . . and Les helped me with the AIDS part."

Stuber was on his own after the memorial service, trying to find words to comfort Les' friends and relatives.

He played a song, sung by another man who died of AIDS, that Les had listened to often during his illness. Stuber then quoted a few lines from the song, "Bohemian Rhapsody," sung by Freddie Mercury of the group Queen:

"It's too late, the time has come, sends shivers down my spine. Body aching all the time, I don't want to die."

For a family that has lived with death and dying for nearly 15 years, it wasn't until then that tears flowed unchecked in the tiny, packed church.

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