The Ledyard Walkers Club has walked miles and miles in their own shoes but now, with the retirement Grace Laliberte (the club's organizer of 23 years) they all have some very big shoes to fill.
"Grace is an inspiration to all of us," said Ruth Gardner, the prior club organizer who will turn 93 this week. "She makes us feel good about getting older."
The Ledyard Walkers have taken walks together every Monday since 1970, according to Laliberte and she has organized each walk since 1989. Laliberte calls every member starting at 7:30 a.m. to tell them where that day's walk will be and where to meet.
"I'll still walk," she said, "but I want to get the call from now on."
Laliberte has a drawer filled with maps of walking trails in Connecticut and Rhode Island, she said the furthest they have travelled for a walk is Cumberland, Rhode Island.
The walkers stick to local spots nowadays because the gas prices are so high but a while ago when it didn't matter as much, Laliberte said they went all over the place.
Each trip ends with lunch sometimes members pack their own but often they discover restaurant near the walking trail. Some of the club's many destinations include Block Island, the Cliff Walk in Newport, Rhode Island, Pachaug State Forest, the Devil's Den, Harkness Memorial State Park, Hammonasset Beach State Park, the Arboretum at Conn College and many more.
"That's the intrigue of it all, said Olga Frye, a Ledyard Walker. "The anticipation every Monday of where we'll go…"
Janet Burnett said she is impressed and appreciates Grace's imagination as an organizer.
"(She has) such great ideas, new places, new walks, new places to eat and new friends, that's really important," said Burnett.
Laliberte said they've all had some great adventures together. Like the time they allowed a man to lead the group and he brought them on a 2-hour detour back to the car because he didn't want to double back.
"We never got lost," she said. "Just turned around."
She was proud to say she never lost anyone and had only a few mishaps in the four decades of walking. She said the walks used to be around 5 miles but have decreased in distance now that the members are older.
"We've had some rugged trails but we made it", she said. "We're here."
Liberte said over the years, the club has had members from New London, Montville, Stonington and Mystic, Groton, Preston and North Stonington.
"That's really the greatest things you've given us is the friendships, you've changed our lives," said Burnett to Laliberte. "We are better people because of you."
The group plans to visit Weekapaug next Monday and would be happy if you joined them.