79-year-old man conquers 500-mile journey for love

November 13, 2018 05:55 PM

At 79 years old, a local man completed a 500-mile pilgrimage all in the name of love. 

John Zachman completed the hike in memory of his wife who passed away. 


"I lost the woman that I lived with for 60 years and I didn't think I could survive that," said Zachman. 

Plagued with a broken heart, Zachman says the 42-day pilgrimage brought him back to life.

The pilgrimage is called Camino de Santiago.

"The advice I had gotten from a guy who was mentoring me when I was agonizing over where do I go, and where do I start, and how far do I go, he just kept saying, 'just go, just go,'" said Zachman. 

So, that's what the grieving husband did. 

He says the farther he walked and the more he talked, the better he felt. While he still grieves, a large part of it melted away in Spain.

Zachman eventually arrived to a place in the pilgrimage called Cruz de Farro. There, visitors leave stones, brought from home, at the base of a cross.

The stones represent their grief. 

"I walked up and left my stone and my sorrow and decided to think about all the positive things in my life like my family," said the grieving husband. 

This includes his granddaughter who helped him train for the trip after receiving a knee replacement. 

He returned to the pilgrimage for a second time in under one year, bringing her with him as a thank you. 

"I said, 'I want you to see Spain. I want you to see what you allowed me to have,'" Zachman told News10NBC. 

His biggest concern was his knee, which he had replaced right after his wife passed. Without it, he tells News10NBC he wouldn't have been able to make the journey. 

With a new outlook on life, the now 80 year old volunteers at Unity Hospital's Joint Replacement Center to spend more time giving back instead of grieving. 

"I find I can pass on a lot of positive ideas and thoughts to people who sat where I sat, wondering if I'm every gonna walk again," explained Zachman. 

"You can do anything you want to do," he said. "I walked across Spain on this knee." 

"Do it one step at a time… just go and believe," he says, giving advice to anyone else struggling with life's hurdles. 


Beth Cefalu

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