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Simple message keeps Fla. man on the road

Steve Fugate passed through Willmar Monday on his eighth walk across the U.S. (Tribune photo by Gary Miller)1 / 2
Walt Freiberg, of Willmar, left, talks Monday with Steve Fugate of Love Life. Fugate walks to prevent suicide. (Tribune photo by Gary Miller)2 / 2

WILLMAR — Steve Fugate’s travels have taken him a little over 37,000 miles — all on foot.

He walked through Willmar on Monday, swinging his two trekking poles as he headed down South First Street.

He pulled a trailer attached to a harness on his back.

Two poles extend from the harness to hold a sign above his head.

In red letters nearly a foot tall, the sign proclaims a simple, two-word message: “LOVE LIFE.”

That’s the purpose of Fugate’s treks across and around the U.S.: To let people know that suicide affects more than those who take their lives.

“You don’t have the right to take your own life,” Fugate said. “It does not belong just to you. It belongs to loved ones.”

He speaks from personal experience — his 26-year-old son killed himself in 1999.

Fugate was walking the Appalachian Trail at the time. Nine months later he finished the trail.

During that walk, he decided he would do what he could so that other parents wouldn’t have to endure what he endures and other children wouldn’t miss out on what life has to offer.

In addition to his walk, the 68-year-old from Vero Beach, Florida, spends his nights in hotels communicating with people on the Internet, such as people who are suicidal.

Various media have covered his travels, such as  National Public Radio and The Weather Channel.

His fame has spread, and wherever he walks, people stop him to talk, thank him for his efforts and give him money and other tokens.

As he headed north Monday on state Highway 23 toward St. Cloud, Walt Freiberg of Willmar and Kim Lindblad of Dawson pulled over to meet Fugate.

The two locals took pictures of each other with Fugate. They chatted for a bit and gave the walker money.

But as he continued down the road, Fugate carried something else.

He wore a blue ribbon Freiberg won in a recent horse race.

On the Internet:

Gary Miller

Born and attended public schools in Willmar, Minn. Served 20 years in U.S. Navy as a photojournalist. Worked at West Central Tribune since retiring from the Navy in 1994.

(320) 214-4344