Tragedy turned traversing the United States
With more than 50 pairs of shoes and at least 44 thousand miles behind him, Steve Fugate has one message for us all: it’s simple, to ‘Love Life.’
The 71-year-old Floridian has walked across the country. In fact, he is on his ninth walk across the United States, most recently passing through Atlanta.
“I came here because I had a mail drop that my girlfriend sent me and I had to pick up new tires,” Fugate said.
The solid rubber tires are to help pull the wagon behind him holding his ice, a few belongings and his inspirational message in the form of a sign that says ‘Love Life’.
Fugate owned a business in Vero Beach, Fla., for 31 years. In 1999, he asked his son to come and manage the business for him so he could hike the Appalachian Trail. The goal was for Steve to end the Century, come back to Florida, and then for his son to do the trail and ring in the New Year. However, tragedy changed that course.
“For reasons we will never fully understand, while I was halfway on the trail, my son took his own life. That ended my life for all practical purposes. I had the boy and the girl, gentleman’s family. I buried my son. Then eight months later I finished that trail, and I finished it in my son’s name. It was my way to tell my son, it’s okay; I forgive you,” said Fugate.
Fugate then went on to walk across the United States, coast to coast, in his son’s name.
“It accomplished a lot. A lot of people noticed what I had done,” Fugate expounded.
He then told his daughter he was going to do it again.
“She thought I was nuts, but went along with it,” Fugate said. “I made it from Florida all the way around the United States, up to Washington and I got a call that my daughter was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis (MS).”
Fugate then went home to be with his daughter and the doctors told them it was an early diagnosis of MS.
Then six years later, another tragedy occurred.
“So, I got back out there. I was three weeks out from finishing and I was in Daytona Beach, Fla., when my sister called and said I had lost my little girl. They said it was an accidental drug over dose, but I know she never ever got over the loss of her brother.”
Fugate then continued his walks across the country until 2015, when he stopped for two years to write and publish a book through Amazon titled, “Love Life Walk,” which has garnered numerous 5-star reviews on the website. Sales of his book help fund his walks across the country. In addition to his book, Fugate also spreads his message of loving life on his facebook page.
“I’m not about suicide prevention, it’s really not what I’m about. I’m a messenger. My message is ‘Love Life’ because if you love life, you’re not going to take your own life. You’re not going to succumb to depression, you’re not going to become a drug addict or an alcoholic. You might even quit smoking,” Fugate said passionately.
“I had a lady drive by me once years ago and she pulled up beside me and threw a brand-new pack of cigarettes and a lighter out and said, ‘Thank you’ and I thought great, she quit smoking and became a litter bug.”
You won’t see Fugate walking with headphones either.
“I never get lonesome, I never get bored. You’re not going to see me with an iPod. They are a distraction. You’re not out there with them. I’m out there with them saying ‘Hey, I’m here,’” Fugate said. “And I have to hear everything. I can’t take a chance on that.”
Fugate says the silence is golden.
“I want that solitude. That beautiful, beautiful silence. We don’t get to find ourselves until we find it,” he proclaimed.
Fugate has had the opportunity to experience things the average person might not get to.
“The U.S. Army sent me to Alaska to speak to the troops. I loved it there. It was beautiful from what I could see from the air. My favorite states are Florida and Maine. Go to inland, go out on the logging roads and climb one of the mountains and look out. You will see all the lake and nobody on the lake.”
He also has a message for those who may be going through tough times.
“If I can love life, just about anybody can. My tragedy is tough. I tell people I don’t want to hear about three flat tires. That’s an inconvenience. And bless their hearts, I’m not mad at anyone, that’s just how it is. Constant rolling complaints about everything. It’s all perspective.”
Fugate is proof that the unthinkable tragedies in life can have inspiring outcomes.
“I love life. It’s a gift. No matter how you look at it. It’s a gift.”