Trail regular reunites with friends from the past

By on November 2, 2011

By: BETH KACHEL Review Correspondent, Staff Writer

Mark Martin, 96, stays healthy by walking the Ephrata Linear Park Trail every day. (Photo by Beth Kachel)Mark Martin, 96, stays healthy by walking the Ephrata Linear Park Trail every day. (Photo by Beth Kachel)

Since the Ephrata Linear Park Trail was completed in the fall of 2008, it has become a popular destination for outdoor enthusiasts eager to shed a few pounds while enjoying the scenic tree-lined path.

In the process, it has also become a place to connect with neighbors and meet new friends. The community connection may be one of the biggest benefits of the trail.

Just ask Mark Martin.

Martin, 96, walks the Ephrata rail trail faithfully every day, year round, skirting rain showers in the fall and bundling up when the thermometer dips. Nothing stops him.

If you’ve spent any amount of time on the trail, you’ve probably seen him. Perhaps you are one of a growing number who counts him as a friend on the trail.

The day we met to walk on the trail was pristine. Bright blue skies and crisp autumn air greeted a steady stream of runners, walkers and bikers.

It wasn’t long before Martin was joined by Leon Wanner, 79, and Erdine Hehnly, 75, both frequent walkers and huge fans of the trail.

"It keeps you in shape," Wanner said, whose wife also walks the trail which runs just a few steps away from their home.

The trio agreed that the paved trail, with its level 12-foot wide pathway, liberally dotted with benches for the occasional rest, is the ideal trail for walking.

"I love it!" declared Hehnly, notably proud of her success in the last six months. "I’ve lost 20 pounds since I’m walking this trail. It’s good exercise and I’ve met so many nice people."

Only in Martin’s case, it wasn’t the first time the pair had met. Hehnly and Martin knew each other when their children were growing up, spending many evenings together as families, even attending the same church. But with the passing of time, the two had lost contact.

Their walks on the trail reunited the old friends.

Martin is no stranger to keeping in shape. From playing ice hockey to baseball, going hunting and fishing, he has stayed active all his life. He played basketball at the Ephrata Rec until he was 89 years old and served his final volleyball game at the young age of 92.

Martin raised four children with Core, his wife of 71 years, who passed away in August 2008. Married in 1936, they weathered World War II, job changes and many moves, eventually running the Cedar Crest Motel located along Route 272 between Reamstown and Adamstown.

Core’s passing left a huge void.

"I want to walk because I have nothing else to do," Martin explained to his doctor after his wife’s death, "I need something to help me." Difficulty with his equilibrium was making walking any length of distance a challenge. Martin had heard of the new Ephrata trail and was determined to find a way to walk.

He came away from the doctor with a walker fitted with four wheels that would help him move smoothly over the asphalt.

With his new walker, Martin set out, literally one step at time. At first, he could only walk one-half of the trail section between Fulton and Queen streets.

"I’ll never see the other end," Martin initially thought, "I figured that was all the farther I could go, but the fact is, I kept going every day and I thought, well, I’m going to finally try it." He’s been walking the entire stretch of nearly 4,800 feet to Pointview Avenue and back ever since.

His determination to stay active may have even saved his life. On Election Day 2010, Martin went through his normal morning routine of walking the trail. But he couldn’t finish his walk that morning. Something didn’t feel right; he returned home and called for help. It was the last thing he remembered.

He woke in the hospital, recovering from pneumonia and a heart attack.

"The only reason you’re alive," his doctor later told Martin, "is because of the way you lived."

Martin’s secret to health, he added, is not just staying active, but also eating healthy and staying away from drugs and alcohol all his life.

"I saw other people, after they retired, get to that television set and their easy chair," explained Martin, "and it wasn’t long before they had trouble getting out of that, and it wasn’t long before they didn’t get out… and then it wasn’t long before they weren’t here anymore."

Martin closed with this advice: Keep active, whether it’s working or playing, but keep moving.

So the next time you are tempted to sit and watch TV, trade that remote in for a pair of athletic shoes and head to the trail.

You might just meet Mark Martin… and come away with a new friend. More RAIL TRAIL, page A16

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