Robert Sweetgall
1947 - 2017
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Robert Sweetgall
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.

To Plant Memorial Trees in memory, please visit our Sympathy Store.
Published in Idaho Statesman on Jun. 20, 2017.
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23 entries
February 23, 2021
I was going on line to purchase a set of walking sticks through his company when I came across his passing; stunning. I met Rob at a Steven's Pointe Wisconsin wellness seminar in the summer of 1998. After shaking his hand he told me of the aforementioned, you just shook the hand of someone who shook the hand of someone who shook the hand of Abraham Lincoln. From that meeting in Steven's Pointe, I contacted him to do a series of hospital, school and community presentations in the early part of 1999. If memory serves me correctly, he presented six different times during the day, culminating with a presentation to the community at large (nearly 400 people) at the Neil Science Center at Valparaiso University. On that day, over 1000 people heard Rob's messages about the benefits of walking. He was a pleasure to work with, very kind and congenial. He made time for anyone who wished to talk with him. So sad to hear of his passing. People like Rob one expects to live well over 100. Rest in peace friend.
February 7, 2021
Photo: Robert spending the night with Walt and Sugar Kik, Davenport, Washington State, 1984.
Phil Krogh
January 3, 2021
I met Rob through my friend Sue Saltzman, then when he lived in Stanton, DE. I believe he was working for DuPont in Wilmington, DE as an engineer. He was fun to be with as a friend to enjoy good conversation. I knew he had changed careers shortly after we met in 1973 and he left the greater Wilmington area. He touched a lot of peoples lives with his new venture in walking. My sincere condolences to his wife Darcy. Nadine Buzgon Abowitz, Lititz, Lancaster County, PA
Nadine H Abowitz
September 16, 2020
A much belated message. I came across a pin from Rob Sweetgall Family Walk in 1985 which took place in Worcester, MA. The local paper followed Rob in his walk “50 states in 50 weeks,” Every week his journey was posted to the Worcester T&G and it was the first article I would read.
At the end of his walk I had the privilege of crossing the Brooklyn with his friends from Rockport Shoe and Worcester friends.
Rest In Peace my friend you did your part getting everyone walking.
Jane Faucher
Jane Faucher
September 14, 2020
Darcy: I was just going to email Rob to say how much I have used the walking poles he sent me some years ago and saw this. I’m so sorry to hear of his passing. I brought Rob to several school districts I worked in in the 90’s and 2000’s and always enjoyed his presentations. He was kind enough to send me some of your tinctures first back issues my husband had. I’m sure he’s very greatly missed. I am very sorry for your loss. He was a larger than life guy.
Erin Green
July 15, 2020
May God bless you for all the greatness you created and accept you into the kingdom of heaven. Thank you for starting "walking across the Navajo Nation" has now become "just move it" and our Navajo people are improving their overall health. I enjoyed taking part in 1997 and remember my mom being ecstatic about her chance to be in a book, saying we're going to be famous! I have a copy of your book now. I wish I got to thank you again in person, but I'm too late. So I'm want to say Thank You!!
Elivera Bahe
March 25, 2020
I think of Robert often and miss his larger than life character. Truly a man on a mission to lead people to greater health. What an inspiration he was and still is to this day. Grateful to have met and become a friend with Robert!
Christopher Wherity
July 19, 2019
A man who truly loved people and loved to live, he will be missed
Steve Davison
May 11, 2019
When I taught elementary school before retiring, I booked Robert to speak to our fourth and fifth graders on healthy eating and fitness ! From this engagement I initiated a fitness program where students recorded all their physical activities and calories spent in a logbook. This was a very successful program at our school and all credit is/was given to Mr. Sweetgall ! Very sad to just learn of his passing !
scott Mahan
April 25, 2019
My grandfather was a sweet and joyous man. Quiet, but so fun. He always had a smile. He was like a big kid, and silly. I love and I miss him
Mikayla Febus
April 2, 2019
I'm so sorry to learn of Rob's passing. I knew him in the late 1970s, when he was among the crew that shared a beach house in Dewey Beach, Del. I remember that he would ride his bicycle from Wilmington to the beach, announcing his time breathlessly every time he showed up.

He never carried anything and made it a habit to mooch shower supplies. Quite a lovable character and I never knew he designed nuclear facilities. His spirit lit up our crazy little house.

thanks, Rob.

Steve Marshall
February 16, 2019
I met him at Stevens point wellness camp 1996. I shook his hand as he shook hands with a person who had shook hands with a person who shook Abraham Lincolns hand. He greatly touched my life.
Charles Walker
December 11, 2018
I heard him at an AVA conference. How he walked many places wearing a forgotten brand of shoes.
I'll miss his vision.
Roberta Allen
August 22, 2018
This response is definitely "over-belated", but it wasn't until recently that I learned of Robert's passing. I was cleaning out some past papers from my teaching career and ran across materials I had collected from him and his Creative Walking company, so decided to check out his status. My thoughts and prayers for his family. I first met Robert when a group of us educators from the Salem/Keizer School District attended the national Wellness Conference in Stevens Point, Wisconsin. We participated in his session, which included a walking demonstration, as well as introducing other components of healthy exercise. I found him to be engaging, easy to talk with, and especially enjoyed hearing his life journey from setting the record of most times crossing the country, to his transition from running to walking, following health/body issues. I still have a set of the walking poles he had recommended. Following the Conference, we on the District Wellness committee invited him out to speak at a couple teacher inservice events. His presentations were always interesting, peppered with personal anecdotes that backed up his philosophy. There were a number of us in the District who followed his Steps program and used the incentives from his catalogs, during our specific site activities promoting wellness techniques. Robert will continue to be missed, most definitely for his positive impact on creative walking as a major contributor to overall healthy living.
Brian Sund
May 7, 2018
I had the great fortune to meet Robert Sweetgall when I lived in McCall. He introduced me to Nordic Walking and later Pickleball. He was a breath of fresh air - truly committed to a wellness lifestyle. Shortly before leaving McCall he gave me his most recent book "One Heart Two Feet" co-authored with Barry Franklin, Ph.D. Robert was an amazing coach, mentor, role model and sincere caring individual. His departure leaves us less than we were before. His memory, work and attendance to all who know him live on. Thank you Robert Sweetgall. You are truly missed.
Thomas Cotner
March 2, 2018
rest in pepperoni
Nick Crompton
December 23, 2017
In October, 1989, I invited Rob Sweetgall to present a workshop to the elementary teachers in the Livermore Valley Joint Unified School District. I was a physical education mentor, and I cannot remember how I had heard of Rob. But he accepted the invite and came to stay overnight at my home. Rob, my partner and I took a walk to a local shopping center to get something. He referenced this walk when he autographed a copy of Walking Off Weight. His workshop was inspirational, and the teachers in our district were inspired and impressed.

I was entering an address in my book when I happened to glance at Rob's address. That prompted me to look him up online to see what he was up to. I was saddened to see his obituary and read of the circumstances leading up to his passing.

I always thought I would meet Rob again when we moved to Washington state from the Bay Area. Idaho was not that far away, and I had another friend who lived there. That meeting was not to be, I am sorry to say.

Rob inspired so many people over so many years. Thanks to him for his meaningful life.
Toni Tami
September 14, 2017
Today I just googled Rob's name to follow up on a quote I was going to use in a talk at Walkabout International's 50th anniversary, in San Diego. The first entry I saw was this obituary. I am saddened and shocked. As the Walking Editor for Prevention Magazine our paths crossed many times. I met him at some kind of conference or public relations event where he and Dr Rippe talked about some of their research on the benefits of walking for health and fitness. It was probably after his second walk across the country. And we talked on the phone many times after that. And most likely he was a guest speaker at one or more of our Prevention Magazine events. I am smiling as I read that he went on to promote Pickleball, which as also become a favorite sport of mine in my 60's. My condolences to his family, friends, colleagues and students. He was a tireless advocate and a wonderfully engaging speaker. No doubt he will be missed.
Maggie Spilner-Brotzman
August 9, 2017
I work for Tom Rutlin who was a close business associate with Bob. Bob was a great advocate and good health and he promoted the Exerstrider Walking Poles as a great tool for added benefits in walking. I spoke with him and Darcy on the phone, only, but I know that he impacted many lives by promoting good health. I continue to hear his name often from our customers. I know he will be missed...I'm so sorry he has left us so soon.
Jan Thiel
July 24, 2017
Just found out that Robert had passed away. Our most sincere condolences on the loss of such a advocate for health and living life to the fullest. He will be missed! State of Montana Wellness Program folks
July 9, 2017
I have known Rob since 1992 when he came to our school system to promote walking. Off of that visit we organized and began our 4th Grade Walk to Wellness. We just completed our 25th year and were hoping to have Rob come and speak to us. He was able to video a talk to the kids and past participants which we showed on May 10th. He inspired many students of ours to do great things with walking. He will be missed.
John Parks
June 20, 2017
So very sorry for your loss. Bob was a guest speaker at our TOPS convention a couple years ago. What an inspiration
Judy has kept me posted which I so appreciated. RIP,Bob and may all the good memories help you through this difficult time.
Shirlene Titus
June 20, 2017
Darcy, Robert was so special, and a great inspiration to us all. I send my love, Lydia
Lydia JusticeEdwards
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