Jackson County

She walked every day but one in 35 years and Pascagoula will miss her

Doris Witchen of Pascagoula waves to a passing motorist as she walks down Live Oak Avenue in Pascagoula in June 2011. Witchen was 84 when the Sun Herald did a profile story on her.
Doris Witchen of Pascagoula waves to a passing motorist as she walks down Live Oak Avenue in Pascagoula in June 2011. Witchen was 84 when the Sun Herald did a profile story on her. jcfitzhugh@sunherald.com File

The walking lady of Pascgaoula died this week. She was 90 years old.

Until early last year, she walked six miles a day — three in the morning and three in the afternoon — for 35 years. She walked every day but one, and I’m sure you can guess which one that was, about 12 years ago. People on Facebook say she brought them hope after Katrina, to see her keeping up the faith, her drive for life, even when all around her was in shambles.

The Sun Herald wrote about her in 2011.

The story said:

Doris Witchen walks like an athlete.

That’s because she is one, in her own way.

At the age of 84, she gets up at 6 a.m. and walks three miles. Then in the afternoon, she walks three more. In between, she does 45 minutes of aerobics from two tapes she plays on her television. She uses 5-pound weights.

And she does it every day ... Think a minute, because Doris Witchen walks in the rain, in the heat and in the cold. She has clothes for all of it. During extreme heat and drought, she wets her head before she walks in the afternoons.

She walks before church on Sundays and on all the holidays. She walks before she heads out on vacations with her children. She walked the morning of a surgery and in the afternoon the next day.

“I’ve done it so long, if I couldn’t do it, I’d go crazy,” she said. “It lifts me up. It makes me so I can live with myself.

“I don’t miss a walk,” she said. “I’m 84 years young.”

The day she missed was the day Katrina was hitting. Not the day before or the days after, and she had more than three feet of water in her house.

No, despite the mess, she picked up her walking routine the next day. And there were times, before the electricity had returned to Pascagoula, that Witchen would walk without street lights.

Her daughter, Vickie Sloan, would borrow a car, because hers flooded, and park on the streets, using the headlights to illuminate the road while Witchen walked.

“I’d do it so she could keep walking,” Sloan said. “It makes her feel better.”

Witchen has the legs of a 50-year-old. A doctor confirmed that.

She’s lean and tan and her hair is mostly brown. She doesn’t color it.

A healthy life

The story also said she took very little medicine and her vision was great.

She ate lots of fruit, nuts and whole grains, but she was not a health-food nut. She loved to eat, but she did limit salt and sugar.

But Sloan told the Sun Herald that her mother started slowing down in early 2016 and moved to assisted living around Thanksgiving last year.

Toward the end, she didn’t walk as far and needed someone to go with her to make sure she stayed on route.

Her mind was starting to go, Sloan said, “but she still knew about her walking. She would ask, ‘Is it time to go for our walk?’ ”

She lacked the strength toward the end, Sloan said, but even in ICU last weekend, a doctor marveled at her muscle tone.

She went downhill quickly, Sloan said.

“She had started slowing down with her walking. You all know how fast she walked,” Sloan said. “I’m going to miss her something terribly. She was so strong, and walking was her drive.”

At the last, she had an infection.

“The hospital checked her for everything, trying to figure out what it was,” Sloan said. “I guess God needed her and Dad has been waiting for her. I guess she’s up there walking on those golden streets now.”

Her obituary says:

“This iconic lady known for her daily walking throughout the city of Pascagoula ... always greeted those passing by with a smile and a wave. Ninety wonderful years spent in our small community and she enjoyed each friend along the way.”

Visitation is Thursday, Sept. 7, from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. at O’Bryant-O’Keefe Funeral Home on Telephone Road. Funeral to follow in the chapel at 1 p.m.

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