Even though she had wandered the United States for more than 28 years and was in the middle of her seventh pilgrimage, Peace Pilgrim’s travels still took her to new places. Such was the case in Knox, IN, where she arrived on July 5, 1981. A friend she met many years earlier had moved to the small midwestern city and invited her to visit.
As usual, Peace was featured in the local paper, interviewed on the radio and had several talks lined up. One of her first was at a crowded church hall. As she spoke, Peace kept looking skyward. Then she surprised her audience by walking off the platform and slowly making her way around the silent room. She reached out to individuals one-by-one and touched each of them, saying “bless you.” She returned to the podium, looked upward again and remarked, “I never usually say goodbye, but this has been a very special night for me and I just want to bless all of you and say goodbye.” Afterwards, as always, she took time to chat with those who sought her out.
The next day, Peace rose with the sun and watched the dawn blossom into daylight. Later, she was interviewed by local radio broadcaster Ted Hayes. The following afternoon, July 7, Peace had another speaking engagement at a senior center in Elkhart, IN, and had accepted the offer of a ride from Ewell Ward. For the first 25,000 miles of her pilgrimage she refused transportation and strictly kept to walking. But once she stopped counting the miles and had many engagements to meet, she didn’t mind the lift. As his car pulled up, she said a warm good-bye to her friend, offering an extra hug.
Just outside the Knox border, the vehicle was in a head-on collision near the home of. Tony and Terry Bau. The couple ran to the road when they heard the explosive crash. Terry held Peace in her arms as she made her transition. Ewell, the driver, passed a few hours later. The young lady driving the other car was not seriously injured.
Thousands of her friends – old and new – were deeply shocked and saddened when they learned of Peace Pilgrim’s sudden passing. The irony was not lost on anyone that the amazing woman who spent nearly three decades moving on foot met her earthly end in an automobile. But Peace was most likely rejoicing on that day, July 7, 1981, when she made what she often called a “glorious transition to a freer life.”
Twenty-eight years later, in 2009, Friends of Peace Pilgrim board member Richard Polese joined Tony and Terry Bau to help erect a Peace Pilgrim Pole that still stands just across the road from the accident. Radio broadcaster Ted Hayes, who recorded her last interview the day before she died, joined the celebration as well.
The Baus keep a small box by the pole where passersby can pick up a copy of Peace’s Steps Toward Inner Peace. Recently, friend Jason Brown sent a note with links to photos of the Peace Pilgrim Pole in Knox. “I have been a big fan of Peace Pilgrim for many years. She changed my life tremendously,” said Jason, who also noted that photos from the crash are shown 52:30 into the wonderful documentary, The Spirit of Peace .
NOTE: This article appeared in the latest issue (Number 64) of the Friends of Peace Pilgrim newsletter.