By Charles Carney
An early morning stroll on the Flint Hills Nature Trail provides sheer delight today! Contrary to the many hot walking days I’ve experienced this summer, the gentle breeze serves as a natural air conditioner for my 2½ hour (8 mile) walk from near Council Grove to tiny Bushong, KS. The gentle green slopes of the Flint Hills give way to the presence of curious cows, who stop their grazing to pay close attention to me.
During my entire walk on the Flint Hills Nature Trail for the last two days, I have not come across a soul. Today, I even stopped carrying my “Human Care, Not Warfare” sign. If only cows could read!
As I look down at the smooth, wide gravel trail, my mind asks: Who has converted this old railroad to a walking trail, so that I could have this incredible experience this morning? A flush of emotion overcomes me as I think of my brother-in-law Bob Lavelle. We lost Bob this April to mesothelioma. I tried to support my beloved sister Lucy through this tragic loss. Perhaps these words today can serve as some solace.
As of right now, I am changing the name of this walk from the Wichita to Kansas City Peace Walk, to this:
The Wichita to Kansas City Bob Lavelle Memorial Peace Walk
Bob was an incredible guy and I miss him. His sense of humor was only outpaced by his generosity. As a plumber, Bob once told me that if I ever needed a colonoscopy, he had all the tools and could offer me 75 percent off for the service. Such a deal. But Bob was so much more than a plumber. He had the mind and knowledge of an engineer. He was the construction inspector for any new contracts at the Via Christi Hospital in Wichita, where he met my sister. He was a “jack of all trades,” master of many. He was an activist, and union leader. His ability to instill confidence in the children he taught was only outdone by his devotion to my sister. In the later years of his life, even as he was battling mesothelioma (which was likely contracted by unprotected exposure to asbestos in his early plumbing career), he spent countless hours building and maintaining a “rails to trails” near Goddard, KS, west of Wichita.
People of PeaceWorks-Kansas City, I want you to know that Bob Lavelle devoted much of his life to creating a green infrastructure for bicyclists and hikers like me. He nurtured a vision of seriously limiting cars and creating countless opportunities for non-emissions travel. I am proud of him. I love him. He embodied the kind of people we are trying to be as members of PeaceWorks and as global citizens.
So, back to my question that I am asking as I walk. Who are the incredible people who have quietly and generously built these walking and biking infrastructures across the country that now allow a simple guy like me to have such an amazing experience on a cool September morning?
Well, let me tell you. They are people like Bob Lavelle. I am grateful. I will not forget him.
—Charles Carney, a member of the Board of Directors of PeaceWorks-KC, began his Peace Walk Aug.10. This website is the home to Charles’s reports on his walk.