In usual Lopez fashion, drivers wave as they pass 71-year-old Ted Therriault out for his daily stroll. Islanders have watched as his pace has transformed from a slow, painstaking walk requiring the assistance of two hiking sticks to being able to trek more than 15 miles without even a cane.
“The first time I was out walking, the UPS driver stopped to see if I needed help,” Therriault said with a laugh.
As islanders arrived to celebrate his recovery by walking in solidarity with him from the Lopez ferry terminal to Sperry Peninsula on Saturday, May 25, that same UPS driver was there encouraging him and helping out in any way she could. Since his walking journey began last April, Therriault has lost 102 pounds.
The pain from arthritic hips made movement difficult to near impossible. Therriault’s wife Karla assisted him in any way she could, however, she noted that he is a large, strong man.
The process toward hip replacement was slow and grueling. Therriault’s journey began in 2013. Using two walking sticks and with the guidance of a personal trainer as well as a physical therapist, he began moving more. At first, half-miles took him an hour to walk, and his wife Karla always had the car waiting in case he grew tired or the pain became unbearable.
Therriault had his first hip replacement in 2015, which was followed by an infection. After recovering from that, he had a second hip replacement and an infection set in once more.
“I wasn’t sure if he was going to make it,” Karla said emotionally.
Again Therriault fought and returned to full health.
Regaining strength became the next phase, which Therriault did by continuing and even increasing his walking from Odlin Park to Lopez Village — a total of 4 miles each direction. Soon, he was able to leave his walking sticks behind, and his fellow Lopezians took notice.
“People, strangers, would stop us on the ferry and say, ‘Hey, you’re that guy we see walking,” Karla said, adding that the support and encouragement they received from fellow Lopezians gave them hope.
“Anyone with similar issues: believe in yourself,” she encouraged.
Therriault and his 9-year-old grandson Jack suggested he and his grandfather take a celebratory walk together, the entire length of Lopez, from “Ferry to Sperry,” a distance of 15.25 miles. Therriault’s daughter said she would join them as well. As word got around, a movement formed and friend after friend committed to the voyage.
In the midst of a downpour at 8:30 a.m. on May 25, 50 walkers gathered at the Lopez ferry terminal to march in solidarity with Therriault. The group set off, walking four miles to Lopez Village. The couple brought enough sandwich materials to feed the troop, and lunch was served on the deck area behind Holly B’s Bakery.
“We thought it was going to be hot, so we also bought 150 bottles of water,” said Therriault, laughing.
Approximately a dozen Lopezians continued the trek with Therriault to the 8.5-mile marker at the baseball field, where they were joined by another crowd, filled with cheering families.
“I love baseball, and used to be an umpire,” Therriault explained, adding “Now I can ump again!”
About seven walkers continued with him south to Sperry despite the rain. The total hike, without breaks, took six hours.
“We just had a lot of fun,” Therriau said.
To anyone facing hip replacement, he advised: move as much as possible and do have the surgery.
“The fact he doesn’t have to walk with sticks and can walk 15 miles is a miracle,” Karla said, telling her husband: ”It’s like you’re 20 years old again.”