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Posted on Thu, Jan 3, 2013 : 5:59 a.m.

Ann Arbor's Cafe Marie establishes fund for longtime cook diagnosed with leukemia

By Danielle Arndt


A Cafe Marie cook for 12 years, Percy Pryor, center, was diagnosed with Leukemia. The staff at Cafe Marie is helping to raise money for Pryor and his family, who also recently lost their home and are consumed with medical bills.

Joseph Tobianski |

For 12 years, Percy Pryor has been the man behind the griddle at Cafe Marie, quietly and humbly whipping up the “best darn eggs and omelets” customers ever tasted.

“Nobody makes eggs like Percy,” said Patty Maher, who first was a customer before working at the cafe short-term earlier this year.

Jeanne Loveland, the owner of the Plymouth Road restaurant, said Pryor is the reason Cafe Marie has so many regulars.

“We have families that come in each and every week. People who I’ve watched their kids grow up,” Loveland said. “And it’s in part because (Percy) has it down to a science. … People come back week after week because we can get them in and out, with good food, even on a really busy Sunday morning.”

Pryor holds the restaurant together, echoed server Joe McMurray.

“He’s completely patient and has this totally positive energy and attitude that keeps everybody working together as a team,” McMurray said.

Now, in light of a recent diagnosis, the team at Cafe Marie has found itself trying to hold it together for Pryor.

On Nov. 18, after rarely missing a day of work in 12 years, Pryor was diagnosed with acute leukemia, a form of cancer of the blood and bone marrow.

Loveland said throughout the month of November she and the staff began to notice changes in Pryor. He was losing weight quickly and became easily run down.

Loveland, who views Pryor as brother, said she kept encouraging him to see a doctor.

“He’s just not somebody who stops,” she said. “He’s a go-getter who loves to work. He’d tell me, ‘Nah, boss. I’m gonna be alright. I’ll tough it out.’”

Two Saturdays in a row Pryor had to leave the line, overcome by weakness and dizzy spells. The second Saturday Loveland insisted he go home to rest.

“It just so wasn’t like him,” she said.

The next morning, Loveland picked up Pryor and his lifelong companion, Rachal Potter, and drove them to the University of Michigan hospital. They called her a few hours later with the diagnosis.


A healthy Percy Pryor just a few years ago hugs a former Cafe Marie manager.

Courtesy photo

Pryor, 39, was saddened and shocked when doctors told him it was leukemia.

“Mostly because I feel real good most of the time,” he said.

The staff at Cafe Marie perhaps was more devastated. “It was like a sucker punch to the gut,” Loveland said.

Once the initial distress wore off, the restaurant’s staff began brainstorming how to help. The cafe also learned Pryor and his family lost their housing shortly before the cancer diagnosis and stayed with relatives in Ypsilanti and in a hotel for short period of time. Pryor and Potter have three children.

Pryor likely will need a bone marrow transplant and being homeless could cause him to be ineligible for the transplant. Loveland said stable housing is a requirement.

Potter has been out of work for a number of years now. Cancer has taken its toll on both the Pryor and Potter families.

Pryor’s aunt and mother both battled cancer. His mother died as a result. And Potter’s grandmother also was ill with a form of cancer, so Potter has been acting as a caretaker for their family members and now Pryor himself.

“Percy would be the last person to ask for help. That’s why we're doing it for him,” Loveland said.

Cafe Marie is asking its clientele for donations to help Percy and his family with housing, utilities, food, medical bills and other life expenses.

A fund, “The Percy Pryor Fund,” was set up through the Ann Arbor State Bank. A website also was established at and there is a donation box out at the restaurant.

Loveland said it’s so difficult to watch Pryor go through this illness.

“Percy’s has always been there for me,” she said. “He is dedicated and dependable.”

Loveland was a manager at the cafe prior to buying it. The restaurant first opened in 1993. In 2006, Loveland renovated the building, adding on a patio, more seating and fresh paint.

She said the cafe stayed open during the day and crews worked into the evening on the renovations.

“We had to leave the doors open at night to air out the paint for business the next day. And Percy always volunteered to stay up here overnight to keep an eye on everything,” Loveland said. “It was so reassuring to me. With him up here, I knew nothing would happen to the place. I knew I could trust him. He has always had the cafe’s back.”

The waiters and waitresses said Pryor’s generosity never stopped at Loveland. He also helped to move several of his co-workers throughout the years and even helped to install a hot tub for another fellow employee, they recalled.

Loveland said what has been most amazing and rewarding is seeing the outpouring of support, love and appreciation customers have shown to Pryor throughout the past month.

The staff first placed fliers around the cafe asking for donations on Dec. 15. In that initial weekend, Cafe Marie raised $867. Since then, the restaurant has raised more than $1,900. Its goal is around $12,000.

“It’s been incredible to witness the impact Percy has had on people — in ways I didn’t even realize,” Loveland said. “And he did it all so quietly and so graciously. … I have that much more respect for him.”

At the restaurant, Pryor is known to say, “It can’t get no better than at the Cafe Marie.”

The “Percy-ism” usually refers to the food, but in his time of need, he said it about the people, adding everyone at Cafe Marie has helped him to stay strong.

“I've got good friends. A good boss. It’s unbelievable what they’re doing,” he said.

And about his eggs, does he really make the best eggs in town?

“I do,” Pryor said, with the hint of a mischievous smile blinking across his lips. “But I don’t like to brag.”

Danielle Arndt covers K-12 education for Follow her on Twitter @DanielleArndt or email her at


Joan Doughty

Sat, Jan 12, 2013 : 2:12 a.m.

Please, I beg of you, make sure a neutral third party, who has financial credentials, is in charge of this fund, and that there are reasonable parameters on what it can be spent on. Generous, well-meaning donors should have the assurance that their money is managed wisely.


Thu, Jan 3, 2013 : 4:48 p.m.

I can think of no better way to "get rid" of some money right now. Thank you for letting us know about Percy. We have never been to Cafe Marie's but you have told us about someone who deserves everyone's help, even if it's a few dollars. This is a rich community. Surely everyone who reads this could spare a few. By the way, politics has no place here.


Thu, Jan 3, 2013 : 7:48 p.m.

Sorry, politics DOES have a place here. This is the real impact of the political choices we make: people's lives.


Thu, Jan 3, 2013 : 4:08 p.m.

Sorry Danielle I missed the website. With all the RICH landlords we have here in AA why can't one of them help this hard working man out?


Thu, Jan 3, 2013 : 3:59 p.m.

Here's a guy who worked hard at the same place for twelve years, "rarely missing a day of work", supported a family, and did not have health insurance. THAT IS A NATIONAL SHAME! To all of you who enjoyed the security of your own health insurance and yet opposed the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (i.e., Obamacare), you should be embarrassed. Not a single Republican in the House or Senate voted for the act. Thank you President Obama and the Democrats in both chambers who pushed this through. America is a more just place now.


Thu, Jan 3, 2013 : 3:47 p.m.

Hey readers - if you see different colored text in an article, it's usually something you can click. Hence the two links in this paragraph take you to places you can donate: A fund, "The Percy Pryor Fund," was set up through the Ann Arbor State Bank. A website also was established at and there is a donation box out at the restaurant. Best wishes to Percy and his family.

Somewhat Concerned

Thu, Jan 3, 2013 : 3:11 p.m.

This is the best of Ann Arbor. Not the $700,000 sculpture from Texas in front of City Hall, not the panhandlers on every block downtown, not the drunk college crowd and their beneficiaries the self-consciously intellectual political correctness whiners, but the plain old hard-working, cheerful, getting by and getting on with it people who keep Ann Arbor going. Let's each toss in a few dollars and help a cheerful, hard working guy - he sounds like one of our best.


Thu, Jan 3, 2013 : 2:30 p.m.

Way to go Jeanne, you are a trooper. Could a reporter print the address so anyone can send a check, or a bank account # set up just for this? Good Luck to Percy, hopefully great days are ahead of him.


Thu, Jan 3, 2013 : 3:31 p.m.

They did make it easy with two links in the 24th paragraph Sandra. "A fund, "The Percy Pryor Fund," was set up through the Ann Arbor State Bank. A website also was established at and there is a donation box out at the restaurant."

Sandra Samons

Thu, Jan 3, 2013 : 3:19 p.m.

I agree. In fact, wouldn't it be easy for, as a community news source, to provide a link where anyone who wished to do so could make a donation online? I bet this community would rise to the occasion and make it possible for this man and his family to focus on his health without the stress of an overwhelming financial burden. But folks are busy and you have to make it easy for them to donate. People can recover from some types of leukemia if they have access to the proper treatment. I don't know what his prognosis is, but that would be a good thing to include in this or a follow-up article.


Thu, Jan 3, 2013 : 3:01 p.m.

There are two links in the article. The first is to the Ann Arbor State Bank,, branch locations are on the site. They take donations made out to "The Percy Pryor Fund". The second is /medical-fundraiser/the-percy-pryor-fund/37135 You can make a donation there with paypal or a credit card.


Thu, Jan 3, 2013 : 2:02 p.m.

Good Luck! Here's hoping for a healthy new year! Cafe Marie was always one of my favorites. My office moved away from Plymouth Rd., but the food there was always the best! I remember when a long-time customer, who lived near-by, became ill the manager would drive her favorite soup over to her house!! I'll definitely come in and make a donation! (is there a prognosis? Treatment plan?)


Thu, Jan 3, 2013 : 1:59 p.m.

I've only eaten there a few times, but I remember that I liked the food, and the people there were always so nice. My heart goes out to Percy and his family in this time of need. I hope that Percy experiences a quick recovery, and will soon be cancer free. It also occurs to me that 12,000 is a low estimate for how much the family will really need to pay for just everyday needs like food, utilities and an apartment throughout the time of the treatment. I'm guessing that they have other sources of income, but I'm sure that they will end up needing more over time. I, and I'm sure many others, would appreciate periodic updates about how Percy is doing in his recovery. If that's all right with him.

Pamela Bethune

Thu, Jan 3, 2013 : 1:56 p.m.

This is why I am happy that the health care act passed. It is simply wrong for a nation like this one to have someone have to beg for money for health care.

M. Barnett

Thu, Jan 3, 2013 : 2:37 p.m.

Think of all the people - like Percy - who have lost their homes due to illness. I'm grateful grateful grateful for a national healthcare plan...

Lets Get Real

Thu, Jan 3, 2013 : 1:01 p.m.

Seems the readers of can come up with the amount they are seeking. If Jeannie Loveland stands for this man, I'm confident the money will be used appropriately to pay bills for his care. Somebody's got to have a place they can live to insure he can qualify for the bone marrow transplant. This isn't someone playing the system. This man has held a job steadily and has an outstanding performance record. He needs some help!