EDITOR'S NOTE: This is a follow-up article to a blog written by WBTV's Maureen O'Boyle back in early May. Click here to read the previous story and to learn more about Dean and Peggy.
CHARLOTTE, NC (WBTV) - He made it! This Sunday, 84-year-old Dean Troutman proved that, at any age, when you set your heart and mind to something you CAN do it!! Dean completed a 700-mile trek across the state of Illinois! Dean made the walk to raise money to add a playground to the park he built in Princeville to honor his beloved wife of 62 years, Peggy.
I came to know Dean's story through his granddaughter, Heidi Christ Colberg, who lives in Charlotte.
When Dean made it into Princeville Sunday, he was sporting the cap he wore for most of his journey. Across the front: "4 Peggy." I was anxious to talk to him.
"How are you feeling Dean?" was my first question. "I feel just as great as the day I left here in April," he told me. He left on April 21. His route took him through tiny towns that have some emotionally significance in his life with Peggy.
He trekked through the heat, rain, cold, and on lots of asphalt. It took him 76 days, averaging close to 10 miles a day.
"I got up this morning and knew I didn't have look at concrete for as far as the eye could see," he chuckled. "But I loved every minute of it."
When I asked what he learned along the way, his answer didn't surprise me. In his sweet Midwestern accent, Dean Troutman said, "The people, I mean the amount of wonderful people I met, is just amazing! It made me see firsthand that we really have so many good people in this world. You just have to get out there and meet them."
Facebook pictures and newspaper photos show smiling kids running alongside Dean as he got into Princeville Sunday. A huge crowd gathered with signs and smiles in the park where this journey began, the place given to the town where he and his bride lived and loved. The kids looked like they are running next to a superhero, I would consider him one!
Troutman's Park is the centerpiece of town in many ways. Now, with the fundraiser such a success, more joy will be had shared there.
"I think we are mighty close to 90 percent of our goal to buy the playground equipment. That was the reason for this, and we are so close to our goal," he told me.
I asked him what advice he has for others who lose a partner.
"Remember they would want you to keep living. First place - be active! Don't sit in a chair and stare at a wall. The more people you meet, the more people you can help. And nothing will make you feel better than helping others," Dean told me.
Mr. Troutman said the people back home are heroes too! They did a lot of "legwork" of a different sort: planning places for him to sleep, a hot meal at the end of the day. "I slept very good every night I was gone... Whether it was a motel, a concrete floor, or a cornfield. I never had one bad night's sleep. Not one!"
He had told me when his journey started that Peggy would be with him the whole way. He tucked a photo of her in the buggy he pushed 700 miles, and another in his backpack.
"Having her with me in my backpack, and the good Lord above, there was no way I was going to fail," he said with a slight crack in his voice.
Here's the kicker: after the huge gathering Sunday night, Dean said all kinds of people offered to give him a ride home. He kindly declined and walked home.
Welcome home Dean Troutman! And thank you! I hope the consciousness you have for your community starts an inner dialog within all of us about what we're doing to give back, and if we could do more!