A 90-year-old Prescott veteran is planning a run into Payson Saturday on his four-year cross-country journey.
Ernie Andrus is looking for supporters to run with him the 4.8 miles or welcome him in town when he arrives.
Andrus has made quite a splash already on his run, which he started in San Diego in October, appearing in national newspapers and newscasts.
Andrus is raising money to send a ship back to Normandy for a D-Day memorial service.
Andrus served on an LST 325 during World War II and was one of the crew members that helped bring an LST 325 from Greece to the U.S. in 2000. The story of that journey aired on the History Channel. Now, Andrus hopes to send a ship, the only one restored and operational, back to Normandy.
Plans were made to return the ship for a D-Day service on Omaha Beach this year, but were canceled due to costs. Andrus explained it is very expensive to take the ship across the Atlantic and back. He hopes to raise enough money to send the ship in 2019.
Andrus runs three days a week, Monday, Thursday and Saturday, averaging two hours each time. Witnesses describe Andrus “run” as something between a walk and slow jog. Andrus admits he isn’t fast, but he never takes a break during a run or even stops for a drink of water.
“I plan on running every step of the way,” he said. “I go as fast as I can.”
Andrus took up running marathons just a few years ago.
At 88, he ran the Whiskey Row Marathon in Prescott and then did it again at 89.
He liked it so much, he did three more.
Andrus’ has been running, however, ever since the Olympics came to Los Angeles in 1984 where he helped run the torch.
Andrus has outlived three wives, including one that forced him to stop running for years, which he says was a “bad idea.”
When Andrus decided he would run coast-to-coast to raise money for the ship, his last wife didn’t try to stop him.
In fact, the couple was married on an LST.
Andrus bought an RV so she would be comfortable on the trip, but she died at age 92 just a month after Andrus started the run.
Andrus said he is now more determined than ever to finish the run.
If it takes him four years, he will be 94 when he arrives in Brunswick, Ga.
So far, Andrus has had someone run with him nearly the entire journey.
“I have enjoyed every minute of it so far,” he said.
Andrus will arrive at Green Valley Parkway and the Beeline Highway between 8:30 a.m. and 8:45 a.m. Saturday, June 7.
Anyone wanting to run with him can meet on the west side of the highway at mile marker 246 at 7 a.m.
For more information, visit www.coast2 coastruns.com or call (928) 308-5478.
Send donations to 304 Brooklawn Drive, Banning, CA 92220. To sponsor the ship, make checks payable to “USS LST Ship Memorial.” To sponsor Andrus, make checks payable to “Coast to Coast Runs.”