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A grand cause

By Staff | Aug 16, 2015

Cindy Prange has been named this year’s Wells Kernel Days Grand Marshal. She is well known in town through her job at Thrifty White Pharmacy and her work raising Alzheimer’s awareness.

On Broadway Street, in Wells is a well-known establishment known as the Thrifty White Pharmacy. Not only do they provide pharmaceutical services, they also provide many different one-stop shop items, old-fashioned sodas, and service with a very big, very well-known smile. That smile belongs to Cindy Prange, and she also happens to be this year’s Wells Kernel Days Grand Marshal.

Prange says she has worked at the pharmacy as a clerk and soda attendant for 27 years, though she doesn’t say she is a clerk, she says she is the queen of the downtown establishment.

“I’ve lived here in Wells all my life, almost 58 years, and I think I know almost everyone that stops in,” shares Prange, proudly. Prange and her husband, Bob, raised two daughters in Wells, Amy and Kim, and now have six grandchildren, one boy, and five girls.

And though Prange has done a number of services for the city of Wells, including volunteering her time and services for back packs for kids, raising money and awareness for families in need, and many other opportunities, it is one volunteer movement that Prange has done that hits close to her home and her heart.

Since 2002, Prange has raised almost $160,000 in the name of Alzheimer’s research.

Cindy Prange has many regular customers that come into the drug store, but once in a while, Prange gets extra special visitors like Dawn Dutton and Kim Zimmer (above, left to right.)

Prange’s work area is covered in little purple forget-me-not donation cards, which she sells for one dollar a piece up until the month of October. Each dollar donated is another dollar to Alzheimer’s research.

In 1991, after her mother suddenly passed from a heart attack, Prange, her brothers and sisters found themselves caring for their father, Marvin Roberts, a little bit more than they thought they would be.

“Before my mom passed away, I always thought she was just giving Dad a hard time for being forgetful,” says Prange, “and I told her to ease up on him. She told me that as soon as she was gone, I would find out just how bad my dad’s memory was, and boy did I.”

She says she knew her father was fairly forgetful, but it wasn’t until one brutal winter, she realized how bad her father’s forgetfulness was.

“I got a call from my uncle, Bruce, who said ‘Cindy, we have your dad here at the house’ which wouldn’t have been unusual if it wasn’t 20 degrees below zero with blowing snow and drifts, with Dad wandering around outside with no hat, coat, or gloves on with a short sleeve shirt,” Prange recalled.

“And that’s when I knew there was something more to this. My sisters and I went to his doctor who told us to go to Rochester to see a neurologist,” remembers Prange. “Once we were with the neurologist, they asked my dad if he knew who the three women were in the room, and my dad didn’t know who his daughters were.”

The doctors informed Prange and her siblings that their father’s Alzheimer’s was too far gone for medicine to help him any, and unfortunately, Prange said goodbye to her father six years later.

“It’s so hard caring for a loved one with Alzheimer’s,” says Prange. “It sucks. There’s no known cure, and you realize that every moment is a memory. I had no idea what Alzheimer’s was back then, I had never heard of it, I could barely pronounce it, and for the longest time, I felt like my family and I were the only ones dealing with it.”

That’s when friends Dave and Lil Buesing stepped in.

“If it weren’t for those two, I don’t know where I would be,” says Prange. “Dave had recently dealt with Alzheimer’s in his family, and I knew the two well enough to be able to ask for help.”

Then, in 2002, another friend, Marvin Geise, asked if Prange wanted to walk for Alzheimer’s as a fundraiser.

Her first year, Prange raised $1,000. Since then, she has not stopped fundraising.

“I’ve made bracelets, I’ve given motorcycle rides, I’ve done the forget-me-nots. You name it, I’ve done it,” says Prange. And this year, she’s slowed down with her fundraising a bit to enjoy her new title as Grand Marshal. She shares she has not had a Kernel Days weekend off in many, many years and looked forward to the festivities.

Many friends of Prange from near and far visit her at her throne that is the drug store. Kim Zimmer, a fellow classmate, and long-time friend Dawn Dutton made it a point to mention Prange’s efforts.

“She’s amazing,” said Zimmer. “My mother-in-law passed away from Alzheimer’s and we connected on Facebook and she’s been this big advocate for Alzheimer’s and it’s just amazing. We love her and have no problem donating to her fabulous cause to a fabulous person.”

“She’s absolutely wonderful,” said Dutton. “She helps everybody all over the country. I’m from Colorado and Kim’s from California.”

So though Prange’s efforts may seem only local, she has made an effort to connect to any and all families dealing with Alzheimer’s disease.

“You don’t know how many families are affected by this, but there are so, so many,” adds Prange.

Her Facebook group, ‘Moments are Memories’ is a private group, but she says anyone is welcome to join in the conversation. She says it is a safe place to share the grief and the struggle that people battle every day caring for a loved one with Alzheimer’s.

Prange is particularly excited about being in the Kernel’s Day parade. She has her tiara and ceptre at the ready, along with a stash of can coozies. Appropriately, the coozies read “Alzheimer’s Sucks.”