50 Mile Walk 50 Years Later

Pipestone Flyer

Erika Lefevre of Rollyview, Mrs. Newman, Social Studies teacher and Pearl Gregor pose with Yardley Jones and the 2013 Fundraising Calendar.

New Sarepta, Leduc County – Sometime in the early ‘60s, painter and Edmonton Journal cartoonist Yardley Jones ‘discovered’ New Sarepta by accident. Charmed by this little Village, he began featuring it in his weekly cartoons, creating a fame that endures today. Even as a young dad, Yardley Jones was interested in fitness.

    Yardley Jones,  “New Sarepta’s Honorary Mayor”, was the instigator of this historic walk when he reacted to a challenge thrown forth by the US president, John F. Kennedy, who publicly stated that “our American soldiers should be able to walk 50 miles in less than 20 hours”. The nation responded to this challenge with enthusiasm, and the fitness fever traveled north of the border into Canada.  

    March 1963: a Grade 11 student, Erica Wanke, borrows her mom’s winter boots without permission to join a challenging 50 mile journey from New Sarepta to Edmonton, and becomes a part of local folklore…

    Erika (Wanke) Lefevre is now a long-time Rollyview resident. After a few years away, she came back to her roots and is known to be an active and fit lady. Her husband shares her love of walking and running and often joins her in her daily walking and occasional races. 

    On Friday, May 30th at 10am, the Hamlet of New Sarepta and Leduc County celebrated the 50 year mark of this Historic Walk, and created a smaller version of this event enlisting the enthusiasm and cooperation of the combined student populations of New Sarepta’s Elementary and Junior/High Schools. 

    Fifty years later, the enthusiasm for this fitness challenge has not diminished… In the High School gymnasium, in a gathering emceed by Mrs. Kristen Newman, the High School Social Studies teacher, all the local children and youths are listening to testimonies of this historic date, and offering their own timely contributions.  Erika Lefevre and Yardley Jones, the globally-renowned political cartoonist of Edmonton Journal fame, took the podium together and told the story of this walk’s origins; with humor and gusto, they recalled the hoopla that surrounded this event, including a helicopter that brought Yardley to New Sarepta that day, and took a few students for a quick tour in the air. The Flying Tiger (chopper) was proudly owned by CJCA, a hugely popular radio station of the era.

    Yardley Jones is dynamic, slim and humorous, and walks with a slight gait, due to a recent knee replacement. Erika Lefevre is a short dynamo, cheerful and friendly and happy to share her love of fitness and stories with others. 

    A lovely Grade 3 student who earned this honor by her ‘top notch oratory skills’, Grace Scheming offered a short speech and asked Mr Jones: “Can we ask you a personal question? (Yardley Jones nods yes..) “Okay, here goes: Will you be the Honorary Grandfather of ALL the New Sarepta’s children?” To his second nod and beaming smile and to the gathered audience’s chuckle, she adds “Yay! We thought you would agree to be our honorary grandpa, ‘cause we are quite cute!” and presented him with a certificate confirming his new title, to “remind him that from this day forth, he will have an added 400 grandkids, which might get a little expensive at Christmas time”. To unanimous laughter, she concluded: “Thank you for coming to visit us, and for being New Sarepta’s Superhero!”

    At this presentation, the audience was also entertained by a performance by the “New Sarepta Philharmonic Choir” of a song written to honor The Walk. Hillary Sadler, daughter of Yardley Jones, now living in Markham Ontario, remembers how her dad was a boxer, a mountain climber and champion rope skipper, a hard-working father who only started running marathons and “ultra-marathons” when he was over 50 years old.

    After the indoor presentation of this reminder of a Historic Walk set in 1963, children, teachers and local dignitaries including Erika Lefevre and Yardley Jones, walked from the New Sarepta Community High School to Highway 21 and back – a 2.2 Km trek-, to enjoy a delicious BBQ lunch, served by a dynamic group of Social Studies students. It was inspiring to see older students walking with friends and younger siblings, interacting joyfully with teachers and both New Sarepta school principals!

    A high school student took her hosting duties seriously, baking and donating 400 cupcakes, with the help of her mom and girlfriends. Jade Botting was proud of their accomplishment, and humbly accepted compliments. 

    On Saturday June 1st, New Sarepta’s AG Society was hosting its Annual Fair and Parade. On this day the Hamlet and Leduc County official had planned an Official Walk to honor those who completed the 50 Mile Walk, fifty years ago… Michael Trempner, former mayor of the Village of New Sarepta, represented the Hamlet as his dad Marvin Trempner was the Mayor of New Sarepta at the time (1963) and greeted the gathered walkers and supporters with warmth and humor, on the steps of the New Sarepta Tire & Girdle Co. shop, “owned” by Yardley Jones. 

    Humorous greetings were offered by Nick Lees, the popular Edmonton Journal columnist, Yardley Jones’ friend and former colleague. Leduc-Beaumont MLA George Rogers was “thrilled to be a part of this event celebrating fitness”: Leduc County Parks and Recreation Director Dean Honesty was also a dynamic host, and happy of the turnout on this special day. 

    Greetings were also offered by Vegreville-Wainwright MP Leon Benoit, who shared: “ I love visiting this charming hamlet and its friendly people on this unique annual event (the Fair & Parade). I remember the mention of New Sarepta in Yardley Jones’ cartoons. I believe fitness is a critical element of a healthy lifestyle.”

    Mr Benoit shared with enthusiasm that “he remembers the success of the 1970s ParticipAction Campaign and how it invigorated the fitness mentality of Canadians: when he works in Ottawa, he has a 30-minute walk to reach the Parliament (one way), and I enjoy that daily exercise.” Tackling family duties, Mr. Benoit and his wife are now Sherwood Park residents, and he proudly cited his country roots near Manville and Lloydminster. 

    At the launch of The Walk on that sunny Saturday morning, following six members of the Edmonton & District Grade Four Pipe Band, the crowd walked at a good pace to the Zion Church, where a breakfast was prepared and served by church members who plan activities for New Sarepta’s youth all year long. Coordinated by Wendy Gowing, the Silent Auction was full of interesting and quality items, a credit to the generosity of local and regional supporters of Christian-based youth activities.

    Kerry Nisbet, along with three friends and supporters of the Cause, was a part of the Saturday morning Relay Walk that left New Sarepta in mid-morning: he is a founding member of the Edmonton IronTeam (formerly called the Iron Cops Team) competing at the Iron Man Canada Triathlon Challenge in Penticton BC, to raise awareness and funds for Cops For Cancer. Kerry is a passionate crusader of the fight against Cancer, a hockey coach, a tri-athlete and a board member of several Edmonton area charities who has relentlessly recruited Iron Man participants since 1998, starting with 10 recruits in 2000 and now having 100 signed-up triathlon athletes on record! IRONMAN Team so far has raised more than $5 Million for Cancer research. 

    On this weekend, another milestone was celebrated: the Class of 1963 hosted a 50-year reunion that involved nearly forty guests who were Grades 9-12 students that year, former classmates and their spouses. Dennis Litke, a lifetime resident of New Sarepta, was one of the four organizers of this action-packed week-end along with Marlene (Soch-) McAmmond, sharing memories and celebrating friendship. 

    After the breakfast, one of the relay teams left to head out to Camrose to help with reaching the 50 miles total (as New Sarepta to Edmonton is less than 50 miles). The rest of the 50 Mile walkers traveled through Sherwood Park to finally head towards Edmonton. Wayne Schultz, president of the New Sarepta Historical Society and a graduate of the Class of ’63, drove into Edmonton and joined the walkers as they covered the last four blocks to arrive at City Hall at 4pm, where they were greeted warmly by Edmonton Mayor Stephen Mandel and a group of cheering friends and family. 

    The “50 Mile Walk, 50 Years later” celebration was an event that New Sarepta and the region will not soon forget. Those who planned, participated in or simply witnessed this celebration can keep this exciting memory in their hearts, and hopefully this simple report will inspire others. Well done, New Sarepta and Leduc County!

    A Note: The New Sarepta Historical Society is currently hosting a large fundraiser: it has designed and produced an attractive Yardley Jones Calendar: the proceeds of this fundraising Calendar are to help fund the digitization of New Sarepta’s archives, to help create a Founders’ Memorial Wall at the Agriplex, and to print some black & white photos for the new Seniors Complex. Enquiries can be made to Leduc County regarding this fundraiser and the calendars. 



Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Alberta has 3,651 active cases of COVID-19. (File photo)
432 new COVID cases sets another record Friday

Central zone holds steady at 126 active cases

"We are looking seriously at the spread and determining what our next steps should be," says Alberta’s chief medical officer of health, Dr. Deena Hinshaw, as the daily number of COVID-19 cases continues to climb.
427 new COVID cases is highest in Alberta ever

Central zone has 126 active cases of COVID-19

COVID-19. (Image courtesy CDC)
Temporary COVID-19 testing sites coming to Wetaskiwin and Ponoka

The Wetaskiwin location will open Oct. 23, 2020 and the Ponoka location will open Oct. 29.

COVID-19. (Image courtesy CDC)
City and County of Wetaskiwin reporting active cases

Both the City of Wetaskiwin and County of Wetaskiwin have active cases.

Alberta chief medical officer of health Dr. Deena Hinshaw updates media on the Covid-19 situation in Edmonton on Friday March 20, 2020. nbsp;Alberta is reporting it's highest daily number of COVID-19 cases, with 364 new infections. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jason Franson
Alberta confirmed 323 COVID-19 cases Tuesday

Central zone active cases at 145

B.C. Liberal leader Andrew Wilkinson, B.C. NDP leader John Horgan and B.C. Greens leader Sonia Furstenau. (Black Press Media)
VIDEO: One day until B.C. voters go to the polls in snap election defined by pandemic

NDP Leader John Horgan’s decision to call an election comes more than a year ahead of schedule and during a pandemic

This photo provided by Air Force Reserve shows a sky view of Hurricane Epsilon taken by Air Force Reserve hurricane hunter team over the Atlantic Ocean taken Wednesday, Oct. 21, 2020.   Epsilon’s maximum sustained winds have dropped slightly as it prepares to sideswipe Bermuda on a path over the Atlantic Ocean.  The National Hurricane Center says it should come close enough Thursday, Oct. 22, evening to merit a tropical storm warning for the island.  (Air Force Reserve via AP)
Hurricane Epsilon expected to remain offshore but will push waves at Atlantic Canada

Epsilon is not expected to have any real impact on land

A voter places her absentee ballot in the ballot box, Wednesday, Oct. 7, 2020, at Merrill Auditorium in Portland, Maine. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP/Robert F. Bukaty
American voters living in Canada increasingly being counted in presidential race

The largest number of Canadian-based American voters cast their ballots in New York and California

A composite image of three photographs shows BC NDP Leader John Horgan, left, in Coquitlam, B.C., on Sept. 25, 2020; BC Green Party Leader Sonia Furstenau, centre, in Victoria on Sept. 24, 2020; and BC Liberal Party Leader Andrew Wilkinson Pitt Meadows, B.C., on Sept. 24, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck, Chad Hipolito
British Columbia votes in snap election called during COVID-19 pandemic

NDP Leader John Horgan called the snap election one year before the fixed voting date

Nunavut's provincial flag flies on a flag pole in Ottawa, on Tuesday June 30, 2020. The annual report from Nunavut's representative for children and youth says "complacency and a lack of accountability" in the territory's public service means basic information about young people needing services isn’t tracked. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Nunavut’s young people ‘should be expecting more’ from government services: advocate

‘The majority of information we requested is not tracked or was not provided by departments’

Ryen Williams, 11, with a lost miniature horse at JJ Collett Oct. 23. Photo by Don Williams
UPDATE: Owners found

Father and son found him while out for a walk at JJ Collett

A Le Chateau retail store is shown in Montreal on Wednesday July 13, 2016. Le Chateau Inc. says it is seeking court protection from creditors under the Companies’ Creditors Arrangement Act to allow it to liquidate its assets and wind down its operations.THE CANADIAN PRESS/Ryan Remiorz
Clothing retailer Le Chateau plans to close its doors, files for CCAA protection

Le Chateau said it intends to remain fully operational as it liquidates its 123 stores

U.S. border officers at the Peace Arch crossing arrested two men on California warrants this week. (File photo)
Ottawa predicts system delays, backlogs unless court extends life of refugee pact

Canada and the United States recognize each other as safe places to seek protection

Conservative member of Parliament Michelle Rempel Garner, left to right, Conservative Leader Erin O’Toole and Conservative Deputy Leader Candice Bergen arrive to hold a press conference in Ottawa on Thursday, Oct. 22, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
No-confidence showdown over sweeping Tory motion on government handling of pandemic

The Conservative motion is to be put to a vote Monday and has the support of both the Bloc Québécois and NDP

Most Read