Robert Sweetgall, 69, passed away June 16 at home in McCall.
Born and raised in Brooklyn, New York, Robert earned his Master's Degree from Cooper Union's Albert Nerken School of Engineering in Manhattan. He designed nuclear energy facilities with DuPont for 12 years.
Motivated by a family history of heart disease, Robert left engineering in 1981 to take his health message literally on the road. "If I could achieve one thing in life I was proud of—something that benefited others and my health too—then what more could I ask for?" He founded the Foundation for the Development of Cardiovascular Health and launched a school lecture tour on the perimeter of America. Robert completed the tour on foot—10, 608 miles.
He did it again in 1984-85 with 11,208 miles through all 50 states in 365 straight days, carrying only a fanny pack. His weekly reports to a New England newspaper eventually became "The Walker's Journal." He was flown 8 times to the University of Massachusetts for testing and research, gave over 150 media interviews, delivered over 100 planned and impromptu presentations to elementary schools, and slept anywhere imaginable, including 7 jail beds. The latter often included free breakfast and once a speaking invitation at a warden's morning prayer meeting.
When Robert finished the walk over the Brooklyn Bridge, he was accompanied by hundreds of people and an elaborate media affair. The screenwriter for a future 'Forrest Gump' happened to be a spectator that day.
Robert walked across America a total of 7 times and authored 19 books, making him America's leading advocate of walking for wellness. He founded Creative Walking, Inc. to create and present walking and wellness programs. His most recent book, "One Heart, Two Feet," is a primer on cardiovascular health.
In a career of over 30 years, Robert presented entertaining keynotes and workshops to over one million people worldwide. He inspired thousands of corporations, communities, schools, hospitals and health organizations to implement walking and physical activity programs. His Walking Wellness curriculum is still used by countless schools. He was featured on the NBC Today Show, National Public Radio, CBS, People Magazine, and more. The Wall Street Journal said, "When Sweetgall walks, people listen."
Robert's impact on our Idaho communities can be measured by the number of people employing Nordic walking techniques and poles in the winter. He was also instrumental in generating an avid pickle ball community. He taught many people how to play the game, advocated for court access, and built a public, regulation-sized court at Mavens' Haven in Lucile.
If you weren't paddling a pickle ball with Robert, you might be scavenging beautiful rocks. His numerous rock-landscapes can be admired in Lucile and at home in McCall.
Robert is survived by his wife Darcy Williamson of McCall. Friends are invited to honor Robert during Shiva from Monday, June 19 through Friday, June 23 at their home on Club Hill Blvd, McCall. Guests may call any time between 8am and 8pm. No flowers may be brought to Shiva; however gifts of food are welcome as are shared memories of Robert.
Published in Idaho Statesman on Jun. 20, 2017.