Westerville octogenarian couple aim to walk a mile a day for whole year

Marla K. Kuhlman
ThisWeek group
Westerville residents Frank Palmiero and Loretta Sulich walk at their neighborhood park, Hoff Woods Park, 556 McCorkle Blvd. The couple’s goal is to continue walking more than a mile a day for 365 consecutive days.

Westerville partners Loretta Sulich, 86, and Frank Palmiero, 89, have been walking more than a mile a day every day for more than 240 days, taking one step at a time closer to reaching their goal of 365 consecutive days.

Sulich, a retired receptionist at Mount Carmel St. Ann's, said they were walking in cold weather earlier this year, and she decided she wanted to start keeping track.

They had logged 242 consecutive days Nov. 27.

“We don’t set records; we just walk,” said Palmiero, a retired pharmacist. “It’s hard to explain to old people. When we say we walk a mile, they say they can’t walk a block.”

He said it usually takes them 40 minutes to walk 1 ½ miles at their neighborhood park, Hoff Woods Park, 556 McCorkle Blvd.

They know many of the pickleball players and regular walkers, and Palmiero keeps treats in his pockets for some of the dogs they meet along the trail.

Palmiero said he changed to a more active lifestyle when he was in his 40s.

After taking a shower and looking in a full-length mirror, Palmiero said, he didn’t like his pear-shaped body.

“A friend of mine, an ex-Marine, belonged to a spa and invited me,” he said. “It’s a way of life. I thank God I can walk.”

Sulich said her doctor tells her to keep walking because that’s the best thing she can do for herself.

She has had two knee replacements, a hip replacement and an ankle fusion. 

“When I had the ankle fused, I couldn’t have weight on it for four months,” Sulich said. “The worst was the ankle about 15 years ago. I had the hip done three years ago.”

She said she likes that the Westerville Community Center, 350 N. Cleveland Ave., is nearby, and she’s looking forward to using the new warm-water therapy pool when it’s opened.

Palmiero said when he walks, it allows him to go places – literally.

“We know we can go on a trip,” he said. “If you can’t walk, you can’t go anywhere.”

By traveling, in fact, the two found each other 12 years ago, after each had lost their married partner.

“We were going on a church trip to Canada for an overnight,” she said. “My neighbor and I were the last ones on the bus, so we had to go to the last seat. Frank was in the seat in front of us. We found out we were both from Pittsburgh.”

After that initial meeting, they met again at church, went out to eat together and have been a couple ever since.

They enjoy regular visits to Scioto Downs to play the slot machines, and they look forward to going on cruises again.

“We had one paid for that we can use in ’21 or ’22,” Sulich said.

“We make the best of what we have,” Palmiero said. “No one is perfect.”

He said it’s a challenge to get people their age to be active. 

“Everyone does the opposite of what we tell them to do,” he said. “All our friends are older.”

He said their neighbor, who was 92, died recently.

Palmiero said the key is moderation.

“Don’t overexercise; don’t overeat; don’t overwalk,” he said.

Sulich said her adult daughters exercise by running every day, including her oldest, JoAnne Barrett, 62, of New Albany.

Barrett was supposed to run her third Boston Marathon this year, but the COVID-19 coronavirus canceled that plan.

“I am inspired by my mom and Frank’s perseverance in regard to their walking,” Barrett said. “When their gym closed, they decided that they would do what they could to keep active and have a positive attitude despite the uncertainty in their lives due to COVID.”

She said it would be easy for her mother, with the pain she experiences daily, to not be active, but she and Palmiero have developed a heathful habit and goal, and they are proud of that, as they should be.

“Due to their walking, they have met many new and younger people along the way, people that inspire them as perhaps they may inspire others,” Barrett said. “I hope that they achieve their goal of at least a year of walking and many more days after that, as well.”

Mike Herron, Westerville Parks & Recreation fitness/wellness manager, said he sees the couple all the time at the community center. 

“When they come in, they’re extremely positive,” he said. “They’re a breath of fresh air. It doesn’t matter the time of day. They come in.”

Herron said they’ve been very energetic.

“They’re doing what they can to accomplish their goals,” he said. “It’s good other people see that for inspiration.” 

Sulich said people just need to keep going.

“You just have to,” she said. “We haven’t missed a day.” 

mkuhlman@thisweeknews.com

@ThisWeekMarla