84-Year-Old Man Walks 700 Miles in Illinois to Raise Money for Park Memorializing Late Wife

Dean Troutman would not be denied, and here's why.

— -- An 84-year-old man recently completed a 700-mile walk to help raise money for a children's playground in the memorial park in Princeville, Illinois, he had built to honor his late wife.

The man, Dean Troutman, purchased 5.75 acres of land in 2011 to establish a park for his community in memory of wife Dorothy "Peggy" Troutman," who had passed away just a few months earlier in July of 2010 from Parkinson's disease at age 79, according to community leaders who spoke to ABC News.

The couple had been married for over 61 years and together for over 63.

"After she passed away, I wanted to do some kind of memorial for her, something that would last for a long time," Troutman told ABC News. "I thought, well, land is about the only thing that'll always be here, so I decided to buy a piece of land. I thought building a park for all ages would be a fitting memorial for her since she loved our community."

By this spring, the park boasted a Little League ball field, a football and soccer field, walking trails and picnic pavilions, Troutman said, but he realized it was missing one important thing: a children's playground.

"We ran out of money to build a playground, so I started thinking if I could walk to my nephew's house in Texas, maybe it'd bring enough attention to help raise some funds," he said.

His daughter-in-law, Amy Troutman, said she "thought he was crazy," so she worked with fellow community members, including Kelly Jenkins and Nate Rice, to find a safer way for him to raise money.

"I told him, 'Oh, Dean! You’re 84, and I don't know if you should do this," Jenkins, who chaired the committee to raise funds, said. "But we know him, and you can't slow that man down for anything. We came up with a compromise and said rather than walking down to Texas, why don't you just walk around Illinois and visit all the places you had memories with your wife."

With the help of local businesses including Running Central and Bushwhacker in Peoria, Illinois, Dean Troutman got proper shoes, clothing, backpack and gear for his 700-mile trek, community member Rice said.

He is a Peoria firefighter who worked with Jenkins and other community members to rally behind Troutman.

On April 21, all 750 kids from the community's school district sent Troutman off on his journey.

"I went alone, and I had my backpack and some basic supplies in a pet carrier I pushed," Troutman said. "I slept mostly in volunteer firehouses, a couple of church and town halls and a few times, under the stars."

Troutman said he walked about 10 miles a day, which was a slow pace for him.

"I visited my hometown growing up, where Peggy and I met and had dates on and eventually got married," he said. "It was wonderful, and it was so nice spending time with some of the people I hadn't seen for years."

He added that he "never doubted at any point" he wouldn't finish the trip.

Troutman finished on July 5, when he was greeted by hundreds of community members welcoming him back home. He said the trip raised over $70,000, and the playground was finished and opened Tuesday night.

"At one point we counted 48 kids, and the children have been loving it," Troutman said via cellphone while sitting on bench in the park. "I know Peggy would've loved it, too."

Troutman said he's still raising funds to finish up the park with "a few odds and ends," including bleachers and a scoreboard for the field.

"I'm just hoping I can see it all in my lifetime," he said.