E.J. Verdahl has walked more than 12,000 miles in the past five years.
The 70-year-old Cortez native walks six to eight miles per day to raise money for the Samaritan’s Purse Shoebox Ministries charity, which gives money to displaced refugees or others in need.
“As long as I’m blessed with health, I’ll keep walking,” she said.
Verdahl went to high school in Cortez, but now lives in Austin, Colorado, near Cedar Edge. She decided about six years ago to start walking around her 2-acre property in order to maintain a healthier lifestyle, she said. She started by walking about 10,000 steps per day, or 4½ miles, but has since upped her mileage goal to 8 miles per day. On some days, she might walk up to 11 miles, she said.
Verdahl walks in memory of her friend Pearl Tiffany, who was 98 years old when she died in 2009. Pearl was known as the “flower lady” of Eckhart, Colorado, Verdahl said.
“She was a fabulous person,” Verdahl said.
Pearl kept tons of flowers growing around her property, Verdahl said. People would stop by in front of Pearl’s house just to look at the flowers.
One day, Verdahl was driving past Pearl’s house and stopped to look at the flowers. She asked Pearl if she could buy some of the plants. Pearl told Verdahl she couldn’t buy the flowers, but she gave them away for free.
After that encounter, Verdahl started meeting Pearl for tea and bringing her meals. Verdahl said she virtually adopted Pearl, who had no family, into her own family.
“I wanted some way to keep her memory alive,” Verdahl said.
Thinking of her friend keeps her motivated to walk, too, she said. On days when it’s cold and snowy, she thinks of Pearl and the cause for which she’s walking, she said.
“My favorite memories of when I’m walking are with Pearl,” Verdahl said. “I think of her when I walk. ... She had motivation. There are times when you just don’t feel good, but if you have a reason to walk, that won’t stop you from doing it.”
Working a construction job earlier in life, Verdahl had her foot run over by a truck. She was told she would need knee replacement surgery. Since she started walking, though, she’s had fewer and fewer problems with her foot, she said.
She rarely has issues with her foot or knee anymore, and walking regularly has improved her health in other ways, too, she said. Verdahl has lost more than 40 pounds since she began walking, she said.
Verdahl said she would keep walking until she can’t anymore.
“I’ll just keep walking until I die and walk right out of this world,” she said.