Community to honor loved ones at annual walk


IRELAND — Jesse Bachman lost two family members in December 2006. His mother, Karen Bachman-Blunk, died of a rare liver disease. His brother, Roy Blunk, committed suicide less than two weeks later.

Years down the road, while driving a tractor at his friend’s farm, an idea popped into Bachman’s mind. Many community events are hosted to commemorate the lives of local individuals. Why not organize one in memory of everyone who has passed on?

So, he did. But as rain fell from the sky just before the first Ireland Knights of Columbus remembrance walk in 2015, Bachman lifted his head and spoke to his mother.

“I looked up to the sky and I said, ‘Really Mom?’” he remembered. “Is this gonna happen today?”

He hasn’t forgotten what came next.

Right before the walk began, the precipitation ceased, and a huge rainbow shined. All participants stayed dry as they walked the roughly 3/4 mile path at St. Mary Church in Ireland.

Bachman is a K of C member and has spearheaded the annual event during its five-year history. The group will host the short walk again on Saturday, rain or shine, at St. Mary.

The cost of admission is $20 per person. Registration begins at 7:30 a.m., and the walk will begin at 8. A hearty breakfast will be served immediately after.

All proceeds go to the local club’s teddy bear project, which has distributed thousands of the stuffed animals to Memorial Hospital and Health Care Center, as well as area police departments, first responders, child protective services and Crisis Connection.

A good event for a good cause, Bachman sees value in honoring and remembering loved ones in a communal setting. Past iterations have drawn between 90 and 160 people.

Beginning in the church cafeteria, participants visit stationed reflection points on their trip around the grounds, including a veterans memorial and the on-site cemetery. Walkers are encouraged to go at their own pace and are not required to complete the whole course.

Each attendee receives a shirt on which they can write the name or names of those they are walking in memory of.

This sparks stories and conversations about how the deceased have impacted others, Bachman said. Participants might not know each other, but even if they don’t, there’s still a chance they could be there honoring the same people.

“With our fast-paced lives, we don’t take the time to sit down and communicate like we used to,” Bachman said. “But, I think this is just a good time just to reflect and think about the loved ones we have lost. And what they meant to us. And how they’ve affected other people.”

The emotional event has impacted many local residents. Marilyn Wolf of Jasper has walked in it every year but one. It’s important for her to go to remember family and friends — she grew up in the Ireland community — and also speak to her grandchildren about their ancestors who were laid to rest on the grounds. She finds peace in the yearly ritual.

“It’s a good time to just stop and realize what life is all about,” she said of the walk. “And how quickly you lose loved ones. And then, you get the chance to reflect on different things on your life.”

In 2015, just as the final attendee completed their trip at the inaugural remembrance walk, a rain unlike any Bachman had ever seen was unleashed, and participants congregated inside the church to socialize and avoid the downpour.

It was the perfect ending. And as the event lives on, Bachman is extremely thankful for the backing it has received over the years.

“It just shows how great a community we have here in Dubois County and even in Southern Indiana,” Bachman said. “Just the amount of support we get. It just really lets you know that you’re in a really good place.”

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