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Southold sisters walk in memory of mother who died from Alzheimer’s

This year, for the first time, sisters Nancy Chandler of Southold and Judy Cronin of Shirley wore purple ribbons during Sunday’s Walk to End Alzheimer’s in Yaphank. The ribbons indicated that they’d lost someone to the disease. Having watched their mother deteriorate over five long years, they were inspired to try and make a difference. 

And make a difference they did, raising a total of $14,000 for research toward finding a cure for the relentless memory-loss disease.

Their once-lively mother, Carol Legrow of South Setauket, died last November, at age 77, from complications related to Alzheimer’s. The sisters had started participating in the annual walk three years earlier, founding a team called “Mom’s Daughters.”

“We thought it was a good way for us to channel all of the negative and sad things related to someone suffering from dementia into something positive,” Ms. Chandler said. “It’s become a really important and great way for us to try to help and find a cure.”

Ms. Legrow was diagnosed with dementia in September 2013, but had most likely been experiencing symptoms for a while before that, the sisters said.

Over 600 people registered for Sunday’s walk, organized by Alzheimer’s Association. 

“It’s a very emotional day, but also a hopeful day because a lot of money is being raised and hopefully they’ll find a cure so others don’t have to suffer,” Ms. Chandler said.

Ms. Cronin is the captain and founder of “Mom’s Daughters,” which raised the most money of any team this year. In second place was the team from Peconic Landing, which raised a little over $8,000. 

In its first year, “Mom’s Daughters” raised about $4,000.

“I feel like I’m really giving back for my mom,” Ms. Cronin said. “It’s a huge accomplishment and I’m going to try that much harder to beat that $14,000 next year.”

She added that she knew her mom would be proud that her daughters are actively pursuing a cure.

“It’s sad to see someone you love disappear. My mom loved to dance and was super-friendly and she literally got to a point where she wasn’t able speak, walk or care for herself,” Ms. Chandler said. “She just disappeared.”

Alzheimer’s is the sixth leading cause of death in the United States, according the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The Yaphank Walk to End Alzheimer’s surpassed its goal, with more than $156,000 raised from Sunday’s event. Donations will still be accepted through the end of December. (Robert Heppenheimer photo)

Both sisters said they want to raise awareness for this cause to encourage others to seek support. Ms. Cronin added that a strong support system is necessary when dealing with Alzheimer’s since it can be all-consuming. 

“You can’t deal with this disease by itself. You just can’t,” she said. 

Another message they are determined to get out is not to ignore signs of dementia or just attribute them to getting older.

“When someone talks to me about how their mom is repeating themselves, I’m like, don’t ignore it,” Ms. Cronin said.

“I became the mom,” Ms. Chandler said. “I had to take care of her and comfort her, and be her advocate. And that’s a big piece of someone who has Alzheimer’s because they can’t speak for themselves.”

Ms. Chandler and her husband moved to California and lived there for about 15 years. They moved back to Southold about five months before her mother was diagnosed.

“That’s something that gives me comfort, that I was able to be her advocate and do the best I could to ensure she was cared for in the way she deserved to the very end,” Ms. Chandler said.

The sisters began fundraising in April, gathering donations from friends, through events and on Facebook. The entire event raised over $157,000 to benefit Alzheimer’s research.

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Photo Caption: Judy Cronin (left) and Nancy Chandler helped their team raise nearly $14,000 for the Walk to End Alzheimer’s. Their mother died in late 2017 after suffering from Alzheimer’s. (Courtesy photo)

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