LEWISTOWN, MT—Gerald Carruthers, a retired insurance agent and father of three, died Monday at 77 following a long and painful battle with life.

Gerald Carruthers and wife Joyce.

"Thank God it's finally over," said Maria Heupel, 53, his eldest daughter. "He was in such terrible pain those last 70 or so years. You could just see it eating away at him from within. By the end, he was just a hollow, wasted shell."

"The agony for him had been overwhelming since about 1930," Heupel added. "It's amazing he lasted as long as he did."

Carruthers, once a happy and vital toddler, had his first painful episode shortly after his fourth birthday, when his father beat him with a cane for accidentally urinating on a favorite rug.

Other such episodes occurred with regularity throughout Carruthers' life. An awkward adolescence was followed by a middling stint at the University of Montana. After years of woefully few dates, Carruthers' disease went into brief remission in 1948, when he met and courted Joyce Lowell during a leave of absence from the Air Force. His suffering returned, however, when he was forced to quickly marry Lowell after she became pregnant with his child. Carruthers resigned from the Air Force and, from that point on, the erosion of his spirit accelerated.

His personal growth badly stunted, Carruthers shelved his dreams of becoming a pilot and instead became an insurance agent. Unfortunately, his meager salary meant that he would be unable to afford relief in the form of material comforts or vacations. By the time Carruthers reached his 40s, he found himself so crippled, he could only lie on his sofa and watch TV after work.

"He tried to be brave," said wife Joyce Carruthers, who watched Gerald's struggle with life transform him from a moody 30-year-old insurance agent into a deeply bitter, borderline-alcoholic 60-year-old insurance agent. "But it's not easy. His pain made it impossible for him to enjoy our wedding day, the birth of his children, even a normal weekend with his family. You can't imagine what the ordeal was like for him."

According to his personal physician, Dr. Clement Kirschwasser, Carruthers' search for a cure followed a pattern common among those afflicted with life.

"He tried just about every form of treatment: diet, exercise, rest, therapy, the usual array of drugs and alcohol—you name it," Kirschwasser said. "But he didn't respond to any of them. Occasionally, there would be a slight reduction in symptoms, but inevitably, hopelessness and demoralization would always set in again."

Toward the end, Carruthers was exhausted and drained of the will to fight. Family members say that even if he had made the effort, he was too far gone to be saved.

"He might have tried some Eastern techniques or the more exotic pharmacological approaches, but the wasting ravages of life had already done their damage," said son Daniel Carruthers, 49, who with his three disappointing children, failed marriage, and exorbitant alimony payments, is already in the advanced stages of the syndrome that claimed his father's life.

"I just hope that when my turn comes, I go peacefully in my sleep like Dad," Daniel continued. "Come to think of it, the sooner the better."