TRAVERSE CITY — Gary Warren was everybody’s friend.

If you needed something, his wife Wendy says, Gary, a fourth generation fruit farmer on Old Mission Peninsula, probably had it.

“His heart was as big as his hugs,” Wendy Warren said. “He was a hard worker who kept a beer keg in his shop. After work, guys would come in and they’d talk and laugh. I’m laughing now, remembering.”

Early-onset Alzheimer’s Disease silenced Gary in 2014. He was 63.

“We’d been wanting to diversify and we planted some saskatoons,” Warren said. “He was so excited about that. We got our first quart of berries off the bushes before he died.”

Gary and Wendy’s son Jeremiah Warren runs the farm now; another son, Clint Warren, manages a Seneca fruit processing plant. Wendy keeps busy with volunteer work for her two favorite charities — Alzheimer’s Association and Hospice.

On Saturday, rain or shine but hopefully shine, Warren will be out walking with “Gary’s Gang,” her Walk to End Alzheimer’s team. She’s hoping to add to her status as an Elite Grand walker — a title given those who raise more than $2,500 in a single year.

The Walk to End Alzheimer’s is an annual national event sponsored by the Alzheimer’s Association, the local version of which is usually held on the walking path at the Traverse City Civic Center.

COVID-19 changed those plans, Kristen Copenhaver, communications director of Alzheimer’s Association of Michigan said.

Walkers were asked to come up with alternative routes.

“This year’s event looked a little different,” Copenhaver said. “Instead of holding a group walk, the Alzheimer’s Association encouraged participants to walk as individuals or in small groups around the region.”

Warren said she knew the perfect route. Start at the farm — Warren Orchards on Island View Road — and walk down to Center Road and the farm where Gary grew up.

“It’s about 2 miles and it’s all downhill,” Warren said. “We want people to know about this disease, and how it can strike even in your 50s. Someday, there will be a survivor.”

More information at The Alzheimer’s Association offers free support groups, education and care consultations.

More information about these services at or by calling 800-272-3900.

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