By Marty Bachman
eonard Marcus, 89, has a bucket list of things he wants to do with the rest of his life, and driving the legendary Highway 50 is one he just crossed off.
Marcus, of Glendale, Wisc., a suburb of Milwaukee, passed through Ely last Tuesday, as he’s been making a tour of the western United States, stopping to have lunch with local seniors after missing out on a train ride at the closed depot.
“I just want to deliver a message to seniors my age or older who are wasting their life away in front of a TV set,” Marcus said. “It’s good to be capable and doing things.”
Retired from many diversified careers ranging from electrical contracting to servicing TVs, Marcus lost his wife of 66 years in 2014, but soon after set out on the road.
While he’s happy to have lived such a long life, Marcus lamented that being a survivor can get lonely, seeing as you’ve lost so many friends along the way.
Staying active, though, is key to Marcus’ happiness. He does a lot of volunteer work for the VA, he reads often and he’s active on the Internet with support groups that are helping mates that are ill… and then, of course, he travels.
“Seniors should not waste their time sitting at home waiting to die,” he said.
A WWII veteran, Marcus was in navy boot camp just before the bombing of Hiroshima. He spent two and a half years in the Navy and was also twice a volunteer cop, once in Glendale, Wisc. in the 1960s, and once in San Diego in the 1980s.
“I’ve done many things in my life,” he said.
When he first retired in 1972, Marcus’s wife and he headed out on the road for 13 years, living in a little trailer. The two traveled to every state except Florida because Marcus’ doesn’t believe in striving for perfection.
“Nothing should be worked for perfection — nothing ever gets perfect,” he said. “If you don’t work for perfection, you can quit anytime. If you try to make something perfect, you’ll never achieve it. I work up to a point where I’m happy and satisfied, or I quit and it worked out successfully.”
Marcus and his wife eventually ended up in San Diego where they stayed until 2010 when she became very ill. They moved back to Milwaukee where he became her caregiver for over six years.
“I never regretted it,” he said.
After losing his wife after so many years together, he gave great thought as to the direction he wanted his life to now take. Traveling the length of Highway 50, originally a wagon trail in the late 1800s and inaugurated as the first coast to coast highway in 1926, seemed to be a wise choice, so he packed his bags and traveled down from Milwaukee to Cincinnati, Ohio, catching the highway east through Appalachia to the East Coast, stopping in Silver Springs, Md. for a visit with his grandson to do some skydiving, the number one bucket list adventure he was able to cross off.
Not long after his East Coast jaunt, Marcus loaded up again, this time headed west to Kansas City, Kan. Where he caught Highway 50 again, this time westbound, with Ely being his third stop.
He wanted to check out the historic places in town and was saddened that the railroad depot was closed on Tuesdays, but he was able to meet a lot of “nice” people at the senior center where he dined for lunch.
“I find that people in this part of the country are nicer than people in other parts of the country,” he said.
From Ely, Marcus sped off down America’s Loneliest Highway westbound, across Nevada, over the Sierra Nevada’s through to Sacramento, where the highway’s west end terminates. From there it was on to Corte Madera north of San Francisco to visit some cousins, then south along the coastal highway to stops in Long Beach and then San Diego.
Driving a Volkswagen Jetta with a toy stuffed golden lab named Sandy in the passenger seat looking out the window, a gift he had given his wife when she was in rehab, Marcus, at 89, is still living his dreams and encouraging other seniors to do the same, to live a life without any regrets.