Each of us has challenges in our lives but what if you, as an active and healthy adult, suddenly discover you have a disease for which there is no cure and only affects 20,000 people a year.

If you’re one of those 20,000 new cases, it is shocking.

That’s what happened to Caterpillar group president Ed Rapp, who recently announced his early retirement from the company he loves and worked for nearly thirty seven years.

ALS, Lou Gehrigs disease is a progressive muscle weakness and is a nervous system disease for which, at this point there is no cure.  

Rapp, who retires next month from Caterpillar, sat down recently with WMBD’s Bob Larson at the visitor’s center, reflected on his career and looked ahead to fighting the disease.

Bob asked him about any memorable experiences during his time with the area’s largest employer.  He said one thing he learned was to be flexible.

“My first move as you remember, we moved from the neighborhood to California.  I learned how to deal with significant shifts in cycles because the industry in California fell in half in 1990 and dropped another 25 percent in ’91.  I learned how to flex cost structure to survive a downturn like that,” he said.

A former CEO of Caterpillar, who called on Ed to become the chief financial officer during the world global crisis, says he was a quick learner.  And Ed gives us the secret to his successful career.

“I think that’s one of the opportunities of the leadership.  It isn’t about knowing it all it’s about can you manage, motivate and lead people.  So what I did was put a structure in place around a project we call Stay Strong.   Identify the work stream that we really had to get after and you know align myself with a bunch of really capable people, who delivered outstanding results.” He added.    

Rapp and his wife, Ann, have always been involved in charitable work.  Ed says working at Caterpillar has given him the opportunity to give back to the many communities where he has worked including Easter Seals here in Peoria.

“Ann and I have always had a clear understanding that the reality is that we’ve been blessed,” he said. 

“As we’ve looked to get involved in the community one thing we’ve tried to do is focus.  There are so many great causes but if you don’t focus your attention, I don’t think you can have an impact, “Rapp added.

He says his family has always focused on helping the youth and promoting education. 

He takes early retirement next month to face his biggest personal challenge, fighting ALS and has set up a special fund to help find the cure. 

Click Here to Donate and Help in Searching for A Cure to the Disease

Wednesday night, we conclude out three part report as we delve into what makes Ed’s fight with ALS different from others and how Ed’s experiences at Caterpillar has helped him deal with this disease.