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Couple walk historic highway through Indiana

Carol Jeff Blair stop Merrillville-Ross Township Historical Society Museum Friday April 25 2014 during Blairwalk 2 150-mile fundraising walk raise

Carol and Jeff Blair stop at the Merrillville-Ross Township Historical Society Museum Friday April 25, 2014, during Blairwalk 2, a 150-mile fundraising walk to raise awareness of the historic Lincoln Highway and Alzheimer's Disease. | Michael Gonzalez~For Sun-Times Media

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Updated: May 27, 2014 6:03AM



MERRILLVILLE — Jeff Blair, president of the Indiana Lincoln Highway Association, stopped by Friday at the Merrillville-Ross Township Historical Society Museum, taking a break from Blairwalk 2 — the 150-mile walk that he and his wife are making to raise funds for Alzheimer’s disease awareness and the association.

One year after the 100th anniversary of the transcontinental highway, which cuts through Lake and Porter counties before diverging into two routes for much of its Indiana stretch, the Blairs, of Leesburg, Ind., are averaging about 14 miles per day and plan to finish their journey from the Ohio to Illinois state lines on May 5.

A portion of the money raised by the walk will go to match a federal grant to make improvements along Lincoln Highway, which runs for about 3,300 miles from coast to coast. The highway was built by American industrialists, including Carl Fisher, the founder of the Indianapolis 500, with private funds, not government financing.

A retired vendor of medical supplies and equipment, Blair said he decided on the first walk in 2011 to raise money for the highway as a way to help people understand the importance of the road.

Now, he’s often joined by people who walk with him and his wife, Carol, along the highway or who hand him money from their cars when they learn of his causes.

Blair and his wife — both of whom who wore bright orange T-shirts, shorts and well-worn sneakers — spoke of old bridges, 1950s-style motels and inns and, in Merrillville, the old Palmer house, a stop along the Underground Railroad that helped escaped slaves flee to Canada.

Businessman George Rogge’s tall red-brick house on 73rd Avenue, clearly visible from Interstate 65, also served as an inn for travelers. The Blairwalks raise awareness and interest in more than history, Rogge said.

“(Blair) walking and going to grade schools, that’ll bring some interest, maybe even in transportation, that people did this kind of stuff (building highways) without government interference.”

Getting younger people interested in history is critical to keeping it alive, said Merrillville’s Ed Boer, a World War II veteran who fought under Gen. George Patton.

“I would say we have less appreciation for history, especially the younger people,” Boer said. “It seems to me (the Blairs) are pushing history more into people’s minds. History should never be forgotten.”

For more information on Blairwalk 2, contact Jeff Blair at (574) 453-3158.



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