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As the rain subsided and the temperature hovered in the 40s, Newark, Ohio native Dave Brown began his seven and a half month journey on Feb. 28 to honor his late wife and raise money and awareness for ovarian cancer. He is currently walking from Atlantic City to San Francisco on the National Road (US Route 40) and US Route 50 in memory of his late wife, Joan, who passed away from the ovarian cancer at the age of 58. Brown, who has family ties to this area, will pass through Belmont County later this week.
Dave and Joan met in 1970 while he was serving in the military. They shared a love of walking and traveling. Dave said that Joan had a rare, aggressive form of the disease and began feeling bad in March of 2011 just prior to her diagnosis in April. After surgery to remove both ovaries and her uterus, the cancer returned and she passed away just four months later in August. He said that ovarian cancer is sneaky and is often misdiagnosed because of the symptoms. Brown said that Joan had a family history of cancer, losing both parents to the disease.
Brown said that just before she passed away, Joan told him that if there was anything that he could do to use her experience to help other women with the deadly disease she was for it.
Brown said he was inspired to walk in Joans memory after seeing a documentary entitled My Run about Terry Hitchcock whose wife died of cancer. Hitchcock began running 75 marathons from his house in Minnesota to the 1996 Olympic Games in Atlanta to raise awareness for single-parent families.
Brown hopes to raise $110,000 for the Ovarian Cancer Research Fund. Before leaving, he had collected $4,000 from family, friends, and colleagues at the company where he was an Information Technologies professional until his retirement in June. He will distribute two business cards to anyone he meets along his route. One card has his story and contact information on it and the other lists the signs and symptoms of ovarian cancer to help educate all women and their loved ones.
According to Browns blog (ocjoan.blogspot.com) 30 fellow walkers from Liberty Bell Wanderers (of which he is vice president) saw him off. He began by dipping his shoes in the Atlantic, facing west and heading for another large body of water. Brown said his walk got off to a late start due to a car fire that shut down the Walt Whitman Bridge. Brown, accompanied by one walker for the entire 14 miles, finished just at sundown on the first day.
Traveling US Route 40 from Atlantic City to St. Louis and on US Route 50 from St. Louis to San Francisco, the 61-year-old Collegeville, Pennsylvania resident will be walking 2,994.3 of the 3,129.9 mile trip (he will be unable to walk 135.6 miles for safety reasons).
Brown walks 13-15 miles per day. His journey will take him through the following 14 states: New Jersey, Delaware, Maryland, Pennsylvania, West Virginia, Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, Missouri, Kansas, Colorado, Utah, Nevada and California. As of day 26, he had walked over 300 miles, passing through four states New Jersey, Maryland, Delaware and Pennsylvania.
Brown is the son of Temperanceville native Leola Gallagher Brown and the nephew of Barnesville resident Pearl Reischman. On day 31 of his walk (March 30) he will be passing through Morristown and then Barnesville the next day. (He will be wearing the bright green hooded sweatshirt shown in the photo.) His route will take him past the homes of four aunts and an uncle and he is planning to stop in and see all of them.
Im not in a rush, he said. I can stop and talk. Brown said he is allotting eight to 10 hours for four hours of walking so that he can stop and document his journey. For safety reasons, he also ends his walk each day before dark.
Brown said he also wants to raise awareness of the American Volkssport Association and the health benefits of walking. Joan and Dave walked thousands of miles as members of the Liberty Bell Wanderers chapter of the AVA.
A third reason for his walk is to highlight the historical significance of U.S. Route 40.
He is photographing various spots along the way that were captured in U.S. 40 Today, a book Joan gave him, published in 1983. The book recreates the journey taken by a professor of the authors, 30 years before in 1953. Brown will attempt to do the same 30 years later. He said the National Road, built between 1811 and 1834, was an idea supported by George Washington and Thomas Jefferson as a way to unify the young country and open the western frontier. It was the first, major improved highway in the United States to be built by the federal government, providing a connection between the Potomac and Ohio Rivers and a gateway to the West for thousands of settlers.
Brown said during his many lunch time runs over the last 30 years (in which he logged over 8,900 miles), he would often imagine that he was running along Route 40 during the fifties.
From July until he began his journey, Brown trained hard and regularly, walking or cycling three hours each day or working out at the gym two hours, including an hour of knee exercises.
He will end his journey at the Golden Gate Bridge on October 12. Dave chose to end his trip in San Francisco in part because he and Joan walked to a convention in Sacramento. He recalled that Joan had injured her foot beforehand but was so determined that she completed all 12 walks in a boot, including a walk across the Golden Gate Bridge. The California chapter of their walking club is considering recreating the two walks that he did with Joan in San Francisco on the last day of the convention with a crowd of supporters walking with him as he concludes his voyage.
You can follow Daves inspiring journey on his web site (http://www.ocjoan.blogspot.com). Go out and meet him along the way and donate to the cure for ovarian cancer.