The Williams and Gruner families have known each other a long time, according to Anita Williams Peck. Al Gruner, father of the Al Gruner who’s now a retired dentist and chairman of the board of Ulster Savings Bank, met his future wife, Helen Foley, at Williams Lake in Rosendale. Growing up, the Gruner kids were regulars at the Williams Lake facility run by Walter Williams, Anita’s father. Anita and Rosemary Gruner, the younger Al’s wife, became friends.
Diagnosed with breast cancer 17 years ago, Anita Peck received 10 weeks of radiation. Anita learned first-hand what it was like to have to drive 15 miles round-trip to the hospital every day for radiation treatment. Fortunately, there’s been no recurrence of the disease.
A few years after Peck’s ordeal, Rosemary Gruner, who didn’t smoke, got lung cancer. Anita Peck cheered her friend up, but “she didn’t make it.”
Now a long-time cancer survivor, Anita, who operated Hudson River Valley Tours, which brings motor-coach groups to the region, has herself become a strong volunteer on behalf of cancer support programs. Having personally experienced the problems that cancer can bring, she, like the Gruner family, realized that people of more limited means have a tough time dealing not only with the disease but also with everyday problems like gas, groceries and transportation. “I realized I have to step up, and pass it on to others,” Peck explained. “They need the radiation to survive.”
To commemorate Rosemary’s life and to raise money to help out local cancer patients, Gruner’s family put out a little cookbook entitled “Rosie’s Recipes.” In 2003 they started the Rosemary D. Gruner Memorial Cancer Fund. Peck was happy to contribute and participate. The family also came up with the signature idea with which the fund has come to be associated: a September bike ride starting in Kingston. It was a big success. From 2005 through last year, the Bike Ride for Cancer raised $561,935 — all distributed to local people with a diagnosis of cancer.