BLACK FOREST, Colo. — What started out as an exercise for the body turned into an exercise for the mind for 75-year-old Larry Cook.
"It allows me to think," Cook said. "There's been so many times when I start my walk and maybe I'm a little depressed or maybe I'm worrying about something and then as I walk it becomes better."
Nearly every morning for the last 27 years, Cook set out on an 8-mile walk from his home in Black Forest. Over the years, he's a lot of reasons to walk. In 2013, his home burned down during the Black Forest Fire.
"I only had about five minutes warning to clear out. So, we lost everything," Cook said.
In 2018, he lost even more to cancer.
"In terms of grief, that was nothing compared to losing my wife last year," Cook said. "That's been the hardest thing to deal with."
But, he doesn't just walk to deal with the pain of losing his wife, Kaye.
"We were together 30 years and it'll take me awhile to get over that," Cook said.
Cook walks each day so he can help others.
"I wave to every passing car," Cook said. "I'm from the deep South and back there that was our culture. You spoke to everybody you saw. If you couldn't speak to anyone, you waved."
It's a simple gesture that Cook believes can brighten up anyone's day.
"I guess more than anything. It's just unexpected. As you're driving along and you see somebody walking, you don't expect them to wave to you," Cook said.
For years, Larry would run this route.
"I used to say I ran so slowly that I got rear-ended by glaciers," Cook said. "Or, I ran so slowly that I timed my miles with a calendar."
Until a month ago, he had two good waving arms.
"Well, I had rotator-cuff surgery. I'm kind of an unlucky fellow, lately," Cook said.
Now, he spends about three hours each day, walking the same streets so he could wave to hundreds of people each day.
"Just to think that even if I can bring a moment of pleasure even if it's momentary in somebody's life then, yes, that makes me feel good," Cook said.
He's been doing it for so long that Cook has become known around here as "The Waver" and at times get stopped by his fans.
"He grew up watching me and he's an adult now," Cook said.
Even after so many years, he never gets tired of the view.
"Thirty-two years, I've been living in Colorado and I still get high looking at those mountains," Cook said.
After 27 years, his exercise of body and mind has turned into an exercise in being polite.
"I'd like to think that if everyone would make a little special effort to be friendly to other people, it would help," Cook said.
He plans to keep his routine of courtesy as long as he is able.
"Well, I'm 75. I would hope that I'm good for another 15 years," Cook said. "The day that I have to give it up will be a sad day for me."
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