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Toledo, Ohio & Lake Erie

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Former mayor looks to golf and go to mass in every state

Marge Brown lost her husband in 1988.

Her postman, Lenny Fetterman, lost his wife in 1990.

One day in 1992, after delivering her mail, he lingered and shared a poem he had written about his late wife. They spent some time together and he asked her, “Do you like to travel?”

She thought to herself, “Well don’t we all have wanderlust in our bodies?” and said yes. That encounter started their 20-year quest to set foot in all 3,144 counties, boroughs or parishes in the United States. Last year, the two finished that quest. Today, they are on the local talk circuit sharing a slide show depicting their travels. They recently appeared before the East Toledo Club at the East Toledo Senior Center.

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Marge Brown and Lenny Fetterman at the Grand Canyon.

While the two didn’t keep track of the time and miles they traveled, one trip will give you an idea. In 1995, they tackled Alaska. They drove 15,000 miles by auto, flew 5,000 miles in small planes and took a ferry 600 miles to the tip of the Aleutian Islands.

On another trip, the 76-year-old former mayor of Oregon rode a burro down 26 switchbacks to a leper colony located in Kalawao County on the island of Moloka’i in Hawaii.

Their adventure ended north of Kalamazoo, Michigan along M-37 in Barry County on July 21, 2013 at 12:37 p.m. All those 37s were in honor of the year Marge was born on July 21. That gem was a gift from Lenny, who Marge calls “anal and cheap.”

That’s not a knock, Marge says. To complete such a journey, pay for it and balance it with work and other commitments takes meticulous planning and keeping an eye on costs. Time not wasted going in circles and money not spent allowed the two to explore the back roads of America, take detours when a church steeple or monument or historical marker lured them off course. After all, Marge said, echoing the motto of the Extra Miler Club, “The shortest distance between two points is no fun.”

Marge also had Lenny’s experience to guide her as he had already accomplished the feat before.

Lenny can also be a jokester. While driving through Alaska, Marge had asked him how long she should drive. He replied, ‘Drive until it gets dark.’ It wasn’t until 4 a.m. when Marge realized at that time of year there was no nightfall.

Alaska was their favorite place to visit and you might think it was the hardest place to find a sign to document their crossing over into another county, but it wasn’t. The two couldn’t find a county sign in rural Utah and flagged down a sheriff’ who allowed them to take a picture in front of his cruiser emblazoned with the county name.

In the early years, the two rode in a van, slept in the back on a double mattress and switched drivers every 200 miles or so. Later on, it was hotels and a more comfortable pace.

While the two live in separate homes, they have evolved from traveling partners to significant others. Spending that much time in the car has both tested and enriched their relationship. Marge said, afterwards, “I have been a widow since ’88 so it’s difficult sharing my space, but we respect each other and he knows when I don’t talk and I’m listening to my music or working a crossword puzzle that’s acceptable to both of us. We can drive for hundreds of miles and not say two words to each other, but that’s okay. We’re direct opposites. I talk all the time and love people and Lenny is a quiet individual…Other times, we have our deepest conversations like, ‘What is our purpose in life,’ and, ‘What should we be doing.’”

What’s next?

Australia, New Zealand and Antarctica are on their bucket list. At 77, however, Marge isn’t sure she wants to book passage on a Russian trawler to the land of the Emperor Penguin. Also on her bucket list are two personal goals: She wants to finish her quest to golf and also attend mass in all 50 states. She needs 15 more states.

Marge will balance that travel with her retirement responsibilities. She is active at St. Ignatius Catholic Church and serves on the boards at Cardinal Stritch/Kateri Catholic Academy, Eagle Learning Center and Vail Meadows Therapy Riding Center. She also serves on two committees for the Toledo Metropolitan Council of Governments.

Prior to retirement, Marge served as Oregon’s mayor from 2001 to 2009. Before that, she served on city council and was a teacher in the Oregon system for 39 years.

If your group would like to learn more about Marge and Lenny’s adventures, you can call her at 419-693-4382.

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