The tragic end for Bears center Mike Pyle

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Mike Pyle died Wednesday at a Highland Park nursing home for brain-damaged patients.

By the end, the center and captain for the 1963 champion Bears was a shell of the jovial, good-natured, inquisitive, bright man he had long been. He knew almost nothing, remembered less.

When I had visited him at the Silverado memory care community back in March, he was sitting in a reclining chair in his room watching something on TV. He smiled when I said hello, but he was a blank slate.

There was almost nothing there, virtually no recollections of anything except for the Yale ‘‘Whiffenpoof Song,’’ which he could partly sing because it was lodged firmly, way back there like a grain of sand, in the recesses of his brain that hadn’t been ravaged by concussions and the resulting tau protein buildup from chronic traumatic encephalopathy, or CTE.

The Silverado had an arrangement with the NFL to treat all former players with at least three years of service — and dementia — free of charge. A nice gesture by the Silverado chain. A nice, after-the-fact, damage-control gesture by the NFL.

Pyle’s brain has been donated to the CTE research group at Boston University, headed by neuroscience experts Ann McKee and Robert Cantu, with assistance from innovator and brain trauma pioneer Chris Nowinski, a former Harvard football player and pro wrestler.

‘‘[Doctors] listed ‘traumatic brain hemorrhage’ on the death certificate,’’ says Pyle’s widow, Candy. ‘‘That’s the closest they could come to saying CTE, until the brain examination.’’

Trust me, this is not how you want to go out of life, not at such a relatively young age, 76, not when signs of your demise have been there for a decade or more, according to your wife, who has lived with you every day.

The Silverado housed 20 former NFL players when I visited five months ago. Maybe they’ve helped more now.

‘‘The old players knew abut joint damage and arthritis and all that,’’ Candy says. ‘‘But nobody said anything about losing your mind.’’

She’s asked to describe the Mike Pyle she once knew.

‘‘What a great guy he was.’’

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