TERRE HAUTE —
Remember that name.
Dave Brown does, on every step of a walk that began 60 days ago in Atlantic City, N.J., brought him to a roadside diner near Seelyville on Wednesday morning, and will finish at San Francisco in October. He figures everyone should know her story, their story. It might save lives.
They used to walk together as members of a local chapter of a hiking and fitness group, the American Volkssport Association, near their suburban Philadelphia home. They’d endured some painful walks, too. More than a decade ago, Joan walked beside Dave as he wheeled an IV cart through the hallways of a hospital as he received successful treatment for prostate cancer.
In the summer of 2011, they were walking that same hallway again, this time as Joan got chemotherapy for ovarian cancer. “It was surreal,” Dave recalled during a brief stop at Jonesy’s Eastside Diner along U.S. 40.
On Aug. 1, 2011, just four months after her diagnosis, Joan died.
His wife was just 58 years old.
That’s why Dave is walking again, alone now, from the Atlantic to the Pacific, along historic U.S. 40 and U.S. 50. That’s why the 61-year-old retired last June from a job he loved, as an information technology specialist for the investment management firm, Vanguard. That’s why he trained for seven months with a dailyroutine of either a 10-mile walk, a three-hour bike ride or a two-hour workout in the gym. That’s why he set out Feb. 28, unsure of the public interest in his mission, but certain of his need to fulfill it.
His determination and energy levels remained in high gear Wednesday morning, as he sipped a quick cup of coffee and rain fell outside the diner.
“It’s strange, but it feels like the right thing to be doing,” Brown said.
He aims to raise awareness of ovarian cancer and funds for research, and keep alive Joan’s memory in the process.
“She was amazing,” Brown said. “I am a better person because of her. I hope when I pass away, I handle it with as much strength and grace.”
They’d been together since meeting at a Halloween dance on the Chestnut Hill College campus in Philly, after the 1970 Navy-Notre Dame football game. Dave studied at the U.S. Naval Academy, on his way to becoming a pilot. Joan took classes at a nearby college. Mutual friends invited both to the dance. Something clicked. They were married in 1975 and made a home in Collegeville, a half-hour from Philadelphia.
Both worked in information technology. Dave spent 20 years with Lukens Steel and then joined Vanguard. Joan had been unemployed, taking college courses and caring for her ailing parents when her diagnosis came. Ovarian cancer is called the “silent disease” because of its subtle, common symptoms in its early stages. Dave urges women to get those subtleties — such as persistent fatigue, indigestion and appetite loss — checked out, because early detection substantially increases the chances of survival.
As Joan did during Dave’s bout with cancer, he would pre-emptively hustle to the mailbox to field any reports from the doctors, so he could break any news to her gently. When the diagnosis came, it was rough. A “rare, super aggressive” form of ovarian cancer was found in Joan. Doctors performed surgery, but the cancer returned. It could not be stopped.
In her final days, Joan urged her husband not to sulk, and to get on with life and enjoy it. “She would be pissed if I was sitting around mourning,” he said, with emphasis.
And so he isn’t.
The nudge for Brown to pursue his current walk came as he watched a movie, at the urging of a friend of Joan’s. That independent film, “My Run,” told the story of Terry Hitchcock, who became the single parent of three kids when he lost his wife to breast cancer. Hitchcock decided to honor her memory by running a daily marathon — yes, a daily marathon — for 75 days, from Minnesota to the 1996 Summer Olympics in Atlanta. Brown related to Hitchcock’s situation, narrated by actor Billy Bob Thornton.
“The conversation [Hitchcock] had with his wife, and the experiences, are exactly what I’d gone through with Joan. It was surreal. And somewhere during that movie, it just came,” Brown said, snapping his fingers.
He remembered a book Joan had given him about the National Road, a highway initiated by President Thomas Jefferson. In his years with Luken Steel, Brown jogged 8,900 miles on his lunch breaks. Captivated by U.S. 40’s history, he envisioned running that famed road as he ran. “In my mind, I had jogged from Atlantic City to San Francisco,” Brown said. “You talk about Larry Bird shooting jumpshots in his mind, I’d been doing this walk for years.”
At a meeting with his boss at Vanguard, months after Joan’s death, they began planning for “next year.” At that moment, Brown decided that, instead of waiting years to take on his cross-country walk, he would retire in 2012, start training, and then do it.
So far, he’s sparked interest in his cause in people who’ve seen him walking, heard of him through newspaper and TV reports, and followed his blog online. Donations to Dave Brown’s Walk Across America through the Ovarian Cancer Research Fund have been steady. He’s had nine people walk beside him for an entire day. “Lodging providers” have put him up for the night, including those touched by cancer, avid walkers and National Road buffs.
“I’m an optimistic person, a glass-half-full person, and you could go into this as a leap of faith and hope it works out,” Brown said of the support, “but it’s been just off the charts.”
An Ohio native, he’s been through Indiana and the Midwest a couple of times, but the spacious stretch from St. Louis to Lake Tahoe, Nevada, will be a brand new experience. “I’m looking forward to seeing the Rockies, and I’m really looking forward to everything — the whole country,” Brown said. “I love to see new things.”
He’ll mark his 62nd birthday while crossing Kansas. With no regrets.
“There’s millions of people in the world, and I just happened to have her for 40 years, and I was blessed,” he said, shortly before leaving the diner and heading west. “You just can’t look back.”
Mark Bennett can be reached at 812-231-4377 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
TERRE HAUTE —
- Local & Bistate
Purdue shooting leaves one person dead
A Purdue University engineering student opened fire inside a basement classroom Tuesday, killing a teaching assistant and prompting officials to put the campus on lockdown, police and the university said.
You’re home now
To say that Michael Curry was stressed is an understatement.
THS grad Miller among students in adjacent building when shooting occurs
Kris Miller and his roommate were in a computer lab of Purdue’s mechanical engineering building Tuesday when they received a call that a shooting had occurred next door.
Bosma moves gay marriage ban bill to friendlier committee
Republican House of Representatives Speaker Brian Bosma sent a bill that proposes a constitutional ban on gay marriage to a more conservative-leaning legislature committee Tuesday, because it lacked support on the first committee to which it was assigned.
We enter the deep freeze again
If you had to step outside to get your newspaper this morning, you might have noticed it’s painfully cold once again.
Levy redirects school funds
If the new “protected levy” legislation goes into effect later this year, it would mean “a substantial reduction” in revenue for Vigo County School Corp. bus transportation, capital projects and bus replacement funds, according to the district’s chief financial officer.
School debt levy redirects funds across Indiana
School officials and state legislators from around the state are searching for ways to keep the school buses running — and children safe on the streets — pending the loss of millions of dollars for school transportation.
More than 50 school districts in Indiana stand to lose at least 20 percent of their revenues for transportation, new buses and other big-ticket projects under a new law that requires them to first pay off their debts.
VIDEO: Sen. Donnelly updates T-S editorial board
Passage of a long overdue U.S. farm bill could be completed by the end of this month, Sen. Joe Donnelly, D-Ind., said Tuesday.
Vigo coroner tries again for salary increase
After being denied last year, Vigo County Coroner Dr. Susan Amos is again seeking to have her county salary increased to match that of several other county office holders.
‘Ups and downs’ in the Statehouse
As state legislators head into the final week of the state legislative session, five of them from the Wabash Valley met with citizens Saturday at the Vigo County Public Library in downtown Terre Haute and engaged in conversation about the “ups and downs” of the recent session.
Finding what the kids need
One Saturday morning event in Terre Haute aimed to raise awareness about the resources available to people with disabilities.
Spotting pot, gun in home nets 2 arrests.
Two adults were arrested and two children removed from a Vigo County home on Friday after drugs and a handgun with altered serial numbers were discovered in the home, authorities said.
HUMAN RIGHTS DAY: Focus on poverty, inequality
The issues of poverty and inequality will be at the forefront of the 13th annual Terre Haute Human Rights Day on March 18 at Indiana State University.
VIDEO: Tasting their way to a cure
People appeared to be in high spirits Friday inside the historic Indiana Theatre as they gathered for an evening of wine, food and conversation while supporting efforts to find a cure for breast cancer.
Same-sex marriage: 4 couples sue state over ban
Four gay couples from southern Indiana sued the state Friday, seeking to force Indiana to recognize same-sex marriages from out of state and issue licenses to same-sex couples.
Time to check smoke alarms
Three years after a house fire on South Nine Street in Terre Haute resulted in the death of three people, a Terre Haute grandmother still wonders if the outcome of that fire would have been different if smoke detectors in the home had been working.
Indiana State Board extends president’s contract
Indiana State University has signed up Dan Bradley, the school’s president, for an additional three years of service.
New animal shelter gets welcome boost
The aging Terre Haute Humane Society shelter is not a place for the faint of heart.
4 couples sue Indiana over same-sex marriage ban
LOUISVILLE, Ky. (AP) — Four couples from southern Indiana are asking a federal judge to force the state to recognize same-sex marriages from other states and issue marriage licenses to gay couples.
Vigo County Jail Log: March 7, 2014
The following individuals were booked into the Vigo County Jail by area law enforcement on Thursday and Friday, based on jail records.
Bill for welfare drug testing in negotiation
INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — Two Indiana lawmakers trying to pass a bill requiring drug tests for some welfare recipients say they have passed voluntary drug tests.
Book signing March 7 in Crossroads Café to benefit Success By 6
The book “One Day I Could Be ... Careers in the Wabash Valley,” is on sale now and will be available at a book signing today, March 7, during a First Friday event in downtown Terre Haute.
Groups ask regulators to probe plant’s power woes
INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — Environmental and citizens’ groups are asking Indiana regulators to launch a formal investigation into problems and delays that have sharply limited the power output of Duke Energy’s $3.5 billion coal-gasification plant near Edwardsport.
Nature trust expands Owen-Putnam State Forest
POLAND, Ind. (AP) — State officials say funding from the Bicentennial Nature Trust has helped the Indiana Department of Natural Resources expand a central Indiana state forest by 84 acres.
Vigo County high school team in FIRST Robotics’ Crossroads Regional
Drivers of remote-controlled robots will match skills, similar to those used in basketball and soccer, to score in the FIRST Robotics’ Crossroads Regional on the campus of Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology.
Benefit planned for daycare fire victim
Veronica Gray never met 19-month-old Emma Lloyd, but when she learned about the child’s tragic death in a Sullivan day care fire, she had to do something.
Winter’s costs add up for Vigo
While still within county and city budgets, the snowstorms of January and February were more costly than a year ago.
Mayor Bennett threatens veto of consultant funding
Mayor Duke Bennett is threatening to veto a measure before the Terre Haute City Council that would transfer money into the council’s budget allowing the body to again hire a financial consultant.
Semitrailer fire slows eastbound traffic on Interstate 70
Traffic on Interstate 70 was slowed Thursday afternoon by a semitrailer fire just east of Terre Haute.
Tests show Skittles had no unusual chemicals
The Indiana State Health Department has given Skittles a clean bill of health.
- More Local & Bistate Headlines
- Purdue shooting leaves one person dead