By Debbie Adams
The scene in the parking lot at Cundiff’s Drug Store in Vinton on July 28 was reminiscent of the movie, “It’s a Wonderful Life,” when a town gathers to celebrate a citizen who has dedicated his life to the good of the community. The Vinton community, and especially members of Vinton Baptist Church, turned out en masse to surprise and cheer on beloved pharmacist Sam Cundiff as he retires this week and the store closes.
An invitation to the surprise party circulated to friends, customers, and colleagues via an email that began “Shhh—it’s a surprise for Sam Cundiff! We hope you will be able to join us to wish Sam the best in his new journey and thank him for his dedication to the town of Vinton for so many years.”
Cundiff’s longtime friends David Semones and Len Hale, among others, organized the event, which drew dozens and dozens of friends and customers to Cundiff’s for the parking lot party farewell
Vinton Police Sgt. Christopher Froeschel was sent into the store as they were about to close for the day to lure Cundiff outside. The sergeant spun a tale about an accident in the parking lot and damage to a downspout, but Cundiff caught on part way through the store saying, “Something is going on,” and was overwhelmed when he saw the crowd waiting outside.
He had sent a letter to his customers once his decision to retire was made, saying:
“Cundiff’s Drug Store has a distinguished history in Vinton, Roanoke, and Bedford counties. My dad started Cundiff’s Drug Store in December 1959. We started not only as a pharmacy, but as a small department store, including an unbeatable lunch counter. I began working there after school and over the summers, first working as a clerk, then as a delivery driver, before working beside my dad as a pharmacist. I am both proud and blessed to have carried on the family tradition.”
The original Cundiff Drug Store was located further downtown on Pollard Street for many years. Sam’s father, Wallace, who founded the pharmacy, was known as a pillar of the Vinton and broader Roanoke Valley community throughout his life.
“As many of you know, I have had my health challenges during the past ten plus years, being away for extended periods of time,” Cundiff said. “I wish I could thank each one of you personally for staying with me and my staff through these times. There does, however, come a time to step back from the operation of this business and retire. Please know that I care for each and every one of you. You are my extended family.”
Sam’s wife, Terri, thanked those who came to honor Sam who have “prayed them through the years of his illness,” and made him a “walking miracle.”
Cundiff officially retired on June 29 and “entrusted the Kroger Pharmacy to continue to provide excellent healthcare” for his loyal customers.