Alzheimer's Arkansas walks set in Fairfield Bay, Conway

By Tammy Keith Originally Published September 9, 2012 at 12:00 a.m.
Updated September 11, 2012 at 3:20 p.m.
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About 700 people participated in the 2011 walk, shown here, at the Conway Expo Center and Fairgrounds, an event to benefit Alzheimer’s Arkansas Programs and Services. This year’s Conway walk is scheduled for Sept. 29 at the Expo Center, and the Greers Ferry Lake Area Walk is set for Sept. 22 at Woodland Mead Park in Fairfield Bay.

At one time, Marilyn Paar of Fairfield Bay was a medical secretary in charge of a large clinic, and “there probably wasn’t a medical word or term she didn’t know,” said her husband, Bill Paar.

Now she has trouble keeping her two sons’ names straight and doesn’t recognize other family members.

At 83, she’s living with Alzheimer’s disease, a progressive type of dementia that robs a person’s memory, leaving a shell of the person they once were.

Bill Paar, 85, is his wife’s primary caregiver.

“She managed our Log Cabin Museum for three years, but once this hit her, she basically lost the ability to think. There’s just a blank spot up there, now,” he said.

Paar said he has gotten grants form Alzheimer’s Arkansas Programs and Services in Little Rock a couple of times to pay a caregiver.

The Greers Ferry Lake Area 2012 Alzheimer’s Arkansas Walk is scheduled for Sept. 22 at Woodland Mead Park in Fairfield Bay.

Money is raised by teams formed to walk, but individuals may walk, too.

The Conway Alzheimer’s Arkansas Walk will be Sept. 29 at the Conway Expo Center and Fairgrounds, 2501 Oak St.

Registration for the walk will be at 8 a.m., and the walk will begin at 8:45. The theme is “Remember in September.”

Melissa Longing of Conway started the walk in 2006. Longing lost two loved ones to the disease. Her father, Jim Montgomery, was diagnosed at age 59 and died Sept. 20, 2003, at age 67. Her mother-in-law, Louise Longing Graham, 84, died in 2009.

“For two years, I went to the Little Rock walk at the Little Rock Zoo,” Longing said, “and I told my mother, ‘Conway is big enough to do one of these,’ and I started working on it right then.”

Longing said 700 people attended last year’s walk, and $25,0000 was raised. This year’s goal is $27,000.

A preregistration for teams is scheduled for 2-7 p.m. Sept. 24 at The Carpet Center, 810 Third St. in Conway. Teams can pick up Conway walk T-shirts, and they each get two door-prize tickets. People who register the day of the walk, as well as all attendees, will receive one door-prize ticket, Longing said.

“We want to make sure everybody who’s there has an opportunity to win something,” she said.

New this year is a team-T-shirt contest.

Also, a person may sponsor a chair for $2 and have his name on it.

Longing said her cost to rent the Conway Expo Center is $300.

Sponsoring a chair “is just a way that we don’t have to take any money out of the funds we raise,” she said.

Vendors will have booths set up with information and items to give away, and Alzheimer’s Arkansas Programs and Services will have its Memory Wall with photos and stories about people throughout Arkansas who have died from the disease.

“We’re trying to raise funds, but also raise awareness,” Longing said.

“Our main focus is getting teams, or come — it doesn’t cost anything just to come and enjoy yourself, because we’re going to have the breakfast items again, all donated. Just come and have a good time.”

Because it’s indoors, the weather won’t matter, she said.

For more information on the Conway walk, or to sponsor a chair, contact Longing at (501) 733-2457 or

George Kelly of Fairfield Bay is chairman of the Greers Ferry Lake Area Walk.

“I actually got involved when my mother-in-law was in a nursing home in Wichita, Kan.,” he said.

She was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease.

He moved to Fairfield Bay in 2005 and joined St. Francis of Assisi Catholic Church, where he became chairman of the social justice committee.

Kelly became team captain in 2007 for the Greers Ferry Lake Alzheimer’s Arkansas Walk and took over as chairman the next year.

He said several men were involved in the first walk in Fairfield Bay, including Jim White and Paar.

Paar has raised $900 through family and friends, thus far. He and his wife will walk, although she is limited in how far she can go.

There is no charge to walk, but T-shirts are given for a minimum $25 donation, Paar said.

Raffle tickets will be handed out, and more than $1,600 in prizes will be awarded, he said.

Registration will be from 8:30-9:30 a.m., and snacks will be provided. Festivities and the walk will begin at 9:30 a.m.

Awards in various categories will be presented beginning at 11 a.m. at the amphitheater.

Paar said all the money raised will stay in Arkansas to help Alzheimer’s Arkansas, a nonprofit, independent organization, fund its programs, which include grants, caregiver training, support groups, seminars held through the state, a monthly newsletter and more.

“A lot of people don’t want to talk about Alzheimer’s, and some people don’t want to admit they have it, but it’s such an invasive disease,” Paar said.

“If you’ve got a sibling or spouse [with Alzheimer’s disease], oh, my, there’s a lot of work involved.”

He said it takes a lot of reading to stay abreast of the latest research.

Paar said his wife voluntarily stopped driving in 2004, but she wouldn’t tell him why.

“There were little things at home. … A friend of mine called and asked about my daughter, and my wife gave a completely different story. She forgot that [our daughter had] moved to Denver, Colo., from Atlanta, Ga.”

Paar said he took his wife to their primary-care physician first, then to a neurologist, who interviewed his wife and made the diagnosis.

The doctor asked Paar if he was a “praying man.” Paar said he was.

“He said, ‘Well, you’re probably going to need to do a lot of praying,’” Paar said. “It doesn’t get any easier. Let’s put it that way.”

For more information on the Fairfield Bay walk, call Kelly at (501) 884-6476.

Senior writer Tammy Keith can be reached at (501) 327-0370 or

Niche Publications Senior Writer Tammy Keith can be reached at 501-327-0370 or

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