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Love life walks began on mountaintop

Steve Fugate stood atop Maine’s Mount Katahdin with tears running down his face.

But, it’s not unusual for those who complete the 2,000-mile Appalachian Trail from Springer Mountain, Georgia to the top of “The Greatest Mountain” to have a mystical experience.

But, for Steve Fugate, completing the Appalachian Trail was more than conquering a trail and experiencing the exhilaration of being on the mountain top. It was the beginning of a new journey that had roots in a place of deep sorrow.

“I was hiking the Appalachian Trail when I learned my son had taken his life,” Fugate said. “I left the trail but, later, I went back and finished the hike. As I was standing there on the top of Mount Katahdin, I knew I had to do something to keep others from experiencing what it’s like to lose a child in such a way. I had to find some way to mend a broken heart while yet beating and to share that way with others.”

On Monday, Steve Fugate was walking along busy Highway 231 with a sign above his head that read “Love Life.”

He stopped to rest in Brundidge at the lunch invitation of Shaynne Braswell of Eufaula.

“For some reason, I wanted to stop and talk with him,” Braswell said. “A friend was on the phone with me when I saw a man walking with a sign that said, Love Life. I told my friend I wanted to stop. He asked me why. I didn’t really know. So, I just said that he might be a veteran.”

And, yes, he was.

“I served in the Navy from 1962-1964,” Fugate said. “That was during Vietnam.”

But neither his military service nor his foot-miles across the country are the heart of Fugate’s story.

“I’ve walked this country nine times now and have covered about 47,000 miles in honor of my son,” he said. By walking I am letting others know that we should Love Life. It’s not always easy to do but it’s possible.”

Fugate started his Love Life walks in 1991 to honor his son. Six years later, he was again challenged in his love of life when his daughter died. But, after losing both his children, Fugate still loves life. He shares his love of life and the beauty of America with those who, like Braswell, “for some unknown reason” are compelled to stop and talk.

Fugate’s home base in Sabastian, Florida. His walks have taken him all across the country. The Love Life Walks have taken him from California to Maine which is the “knock-down most gorgeous state.”

The walk Fugate is now on will take him to Georgia to share thoughts with a reader of his book “Love Life Walk.” Then, he will double back to Oregon – if things settle down.

Along the way, along all Fugate’s ways, he shares his stories and others share theirs which are shared in his book,” Love Life Walk.”

“I’ve talked with people from all walks of life, of every creed, of every race – so many who have something to share about loving life and how we ‘walk’ through it,” Fugate said. “And every story is a smile framed by tears.”