Sunday might have been Marge Brown’s 76th birthday but that wasn’t the only cause for her to celebrate. The woman from Oregon, Ohio, finished her goal of visiting every county in the United States, ending the two decade-long pursuit in Barry County, Michigan, according to the Kalamazoo Gazette.
There was something special about completing her 3,144th county in Barry County — the number 37. Brown walked on the side of M-37 at 12:37, something she wanted to do because she was born in 1937. And Barry County Commissioner Ben Geiger, who was there to present Brown with a certificate, only made his proclamation a fitting 37 words long.
The location was also close enough to her Ohio town that Brown “could have family and friends come meet me here,” she told the Gazette. There were about 40 people waiting to cheer her on.
Although this final county might have been a relatively easy one to get to, Brown has stories about some that were significantly harder:
Brown said the most memorable adventures were, of course, in Alaska and Hawaii. She said many of Alaska’s boroughs are accessible by air only; others she reached by marine vessel.
Hawaii, she said, afforded her an opportunity to travel by donkey to see Kalawao County — a former leper colony accessible only by a trail on the island of Molokai.
And then there’s Rhode Island where Brown said she was able to complete three counties within one morning.
It was in 1992 that Brown consciously decided to become a member of the Extra Miler Club. To be fair, the retired school teacher who was also a two-term mayor of her town did not step foot in all of these counties only during the past 21 years — she made a list of counties she had previously visited and counted those toward her goal as well. This is perfectly legal according to the Extra Miler Club’s FAQs. Brown is also the current vice president of the club, which was founded in the 1970s.
Brown became interested in visiting all the counties after helping her companion Lenny Fetterman join the club 20 years ago, according to the Toledo Blade.
“We always take an extra mile. Every time we took a wrong turn, we saw something we would have never seen [otherwise],” Brown told the Blade.
The Blade has more details on the Extra Miler Club trips Brown and Fetterman made too:
They met people. There was the woman on the flight from Juneau to Anchorage who cried softly, confiding in Ms. Brown that she had just come from burying her baby sister. In Gibsland, La., they conversed with the mayor, who also owned the restaurant where they stopped to get a bite to eat.
They shared a meal of green vegetables known as fiddleheads, the furled fronds of young ferns, with a man and his grandchildren in the town of Talkeetna in Alaska.
Their meals were always local fare — suggestions by the local postmaster or other community know-it-all. They hobnobbed with customers, made friends. And Mr. Fetterman left his signature $2 bills for tips.
There were adventures within the adventures — Ms. Brown attempted to golf and go to church in every state. Her tally so far? Church, 33. Golf, 32.
Now that Brown has completed this, don’t be mistaken in thinking she’s done traveling. The woman said she has another goal of traveling to Australia and Antarctica so she can say she’s been on all seven continents.
“No matter how old you are — age is always in your mind — you can do what you want to do,” Brown told the Gazette. “My sister [who was present Sunday] is eight years older than me and I took her to Europe, we’ve taken a cruise and had wonderful times, so age is all up here in your head. That’s it.”