The best way to interview an octogenarian who walked 30,000 miles in 30 years (a thousand miles a year) is to go for a three-mile, early morning walk with him or her. But don’t think you won’t have any trouble keeping up because the octogenarian will be doing all the talking. Eighty-five-year old George Chapman of Mt. Pleasant doesn’t employ much arm swing when he walks, nor does he emphasize his words with hand gestures, like a lot of politicians. He takes rapid short-fire steps from the hips, and keeps his arms at his sides. All I had to do (at age 70) was listen, hold the tiny voice recorder, and try to keep up.
It started back in 1989 when George and his wife, Karen, lived in 9,318 ft elevation Silverton, Colorado. Then Gov. Roy Romer had a program for seniors 55 and over — walk 500 miles and they would get a certificate. George knocked that off in six months, and kept on going. He has never stopped.
On Feb. 18, 2014, 25 years later, George had circumnavigated the earth. Not really, but on that date, he had completed 24,902 miles. That figure (actually 24,901.55 miles) is the circumference of the earth at the equator. He is proud to say he did not take the shortcut via the poles, which would have shaved off 50 miles.
Then, on March 23, 2019, George Chapman hit 30,000 miles! He isn’t calling it quits, either. Why would he? Oh, he has slowed his pace over the years from 4 mph (a jog for me) to 3 mph. But anyone who does much walking, or running, knows 3 mph is no walk in the park.
George graduated from Brown University in Providence, Rhode Island, with a degree in psychology, and was immediately drafted. After two years in the Army, he became an insurance executive with Mass Mutual, and married Karen, a nurse. Three children followed. This was career number one.
When the insurance business grew mundane, and midlife crises were tickling the fancy of both Karen and George, they shifted gears, bought a newspaper in the tiny mountain town of Silverton, Colorado (population 800) on the Western Slope of the Rockies, and became mountaineer media moguls. Karen sold advertising and George was the publisher, editor and floor sweeper. Career number two.
Never a couple to spend more than 15 years in one place, when a B&B came up for sale in Kentucky, they sold the newspaper and were off to greener pastures (Kentucky is the bluegrass state, you know.) Career number three.
Would there be a career number four? Well, if you call retirement a career, and considering all of George’s interests and officer positions, retirement is his fourth career. They had been through Mt. Pleasant — it was sort of midway between two of their kids — and fell in love with a circa 1868 National Register, two-story, brick Italianate home, complete with a tower. They bought it, and relocated George’s 1931, mostly restored, six-cylinder Chevrolet to its garage. (It may be completely restored by the NO — Next Owner.) The antique car shares space with their personal automobile, and George’s printing presses. You can take the newspaper man out of the business, but the ink still is in his blood.
George is Advertising Manager and proofreader for “The Bulb Horn” which is the official publication of the Vintage Motor Car Club of America (VMCCA), and Treasurer of the Red Flag Horseless Carriage Tour.
Then there’s the walking. George calculates that for each hour he spends walking, he has added more than an hour to the end of his life. And he doesn’t mean in the nursing home.
Have a good story? Call or text Curt Swarm in Mt. Pleasant at 319-217-0526, email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.