Easthampton woman remembers lifelong neighbor with Toy Fund donation

  • Susanna Walz, left, and Alice Kapinos LaPrade at age 10 near their houses on Mount Tom Avenue in Easthampton. SUBMITTED PHOTO

  • Susanna Walz holds a photo of herself with Alice Kapinos LaPrade, right, at age 10. The two were lifelong friends who always lived next door to each other on Mount Tom Avenue in Easthampton. LaPrade passed away in 2011. GAZETTE STAFF/DUSTY CHRISTENSEN

Staff Writer
Published: 11/29/2019 12:43:07 PM

EASTHAMPTON — When Sue Walz’s father built the family house on Mount Tom Avenue in 1950, he could have never guessed that he was helping to establish a lifelong friendship for his daughter.

The house next door to Walz was owned by the family of Alice Kapinos LaPrade, who at age 5 befriended Walz. That began a 60-year friendship between the two women, who continued to live on the same street for all of those years. Walz and her life partner, Ed Procon, would often spend time with LaPrade and her husband, Adrien “Pudge” LaPrade.

“Because she was so close, we maintained a friendship,” Walz said. “Sometimes you maintain a friendship with a person sort of in theory, but in our case we were so close to each other that we spent time together plus we would turn to each other in times of tribulation. We were sort of always there for each other.”

Alice died eight years ago, and Pudge passed away two years ago. So when Walz and Procon decided to donate to the Sydney F. Smith Toy Fund this year, it was obvious that they would donate in memory of their close friends.

“They raised three lovely children, which of course I knew them from their birth to the present,” Walz said. “They consider me family, I consider them family. To remember Alice and Pudge just made me think of kids.”

Named after a former business manager at the Gazette, the Toy Fund began in 1933 to help families in need during the Depression. Today, the fund distributes vouchers worth $40 to families for each child from age 1 to 14.

Walz was a kindergarten teacher in Easthampton for 35 years, so she said the Toy Fund made sense when she wanted to donate to a cause.

“I’m kid-oriented,” she said.

Walz said she and Procon still think about Alice and Pudge, whom they remained close to in the years after Alice passed away.

“Alice opened her heart and her home to me,” Walz said. “We were lifelong friends.”

In order to be eligible for the Sydney F. Smith Toy Fund, families must live in any Hampshire County community except Ware, in the southern Franklin County towns of Deerfield, Sunderland, Whately, Shutesbury and Leverett, and in Holyoke in Hampden County.

18 Degrees Family Services for Western Massachusetts at 59 Interstate Drive in West Springfield verifies families’ eligibility and the Gazette covers costs associated with the drive, freeing all donations to fund the vouchers.

The following stores are participating this year: A2Z Science and Learning Store, 57 King St., Northampton; Deals & Steals, 1 Pearl St., Northampton; JCPenney, 367 Russell St., Hadley (store only); The Toy Box, 201 N. Pleasant St., Amherst; Target, 367 Russell St. Hadley (store only); Sam’s Outdoor Outfitters, 227 Russell St., Hadley; Odyssey Bookshop, 9 College St., Village Commons, South Hadley; Wilson’s Department Store, 258 Main St., Greenfield; World Eye Bookshop & Magical Child, 134 Main St., Greenfield; Holyoke Sporting Goods Co. 1584 Dwight St. No. 1, Holyoke; and Children’s Museum at Holyoke, 444 Dwight St., Holyoke.

Donations to the Toy Fund may be dropped off at, or mailed to, the Daily Hampshire Gazette, P.O. Box 299, Northampton, MA, 01061, or made through gazettenet.com.

Checks should be made payable to the Sidney F. Smith Toy Fund.

Dusty Christensen can be reached at dchristensen@gazettenet.com.


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