Prelude to Walking Across the United States

When Peace Pilgrim died in 1981 a memorial service was held for her at Richard Polese’s home in Santa Fe, New Mexico. Many of her friends from all around the country were invited to come and share their stories. For two weeks people came and went, sharing memories, personal letters, tapes of her talks and photos. Many people expressed a desire to see her work and words carried on, some toying with the idea of writing a book about her life.

As the crowds dwindled five of us were left: Richard Polese, Ann and John Rush, A.Z. and me. We decided to take on the project of putting together a book about Peace Pilgrim. As we discussed the impact Peace’s life had had on so many people, we decided that no one could tell her story better than she did herself. We had all the resources we needed to put it together. Hundreds of newspaper articles chronicling her pilgrimage had been gathered and stored in the Peace archives at Swarthmore College and Peace had written enough to write a book, it just hadn’t been put into book form.

Peace Pilgrim’s life, like the stories of saints of old, was like the mythical tale of a traveling angel. In a few short weeks our concentrated efforts produced the first draft of the book Peace Pilgrim: Her Life and Work in Her Own Words. It was published less than one year after her death. More than 500,000 free copies have been sent out and continue to be sent free of charge or downloaded as a PDF. (Available from the Friends of Peace Pilgrim non-profit organization,

John and Ann Rush    Andy Zupko, Cheryl Canfield, Richard Polese
Left: John and Ann Rush -- Right: Andy Zupko, Cheryl Canfield, Richard Polese
Compilers of Peace Pilgrim: Her Life and Work

Once the book was completed I wasn’t ready to close that chapter of my life. I wanted to experience what it was like to walk across the country. AZ and Andy, now called AB because they shared the same first name, joined me in making plans to walk from San Francisco to Washington, D.C. We opened the walk up to others who would like to join and agreed to some simple guidelines, in the spirit of Peace Pilgrim:

1. Meals would be vegetarian, organic when possible and shared.
2. Necessary tasks would be distributed each week and rotated.
3. Everyone would give a predetermined amount each week to go into the collective fund for food.
4. There would be no soliciting of funds or accepted donations. We were to be self-sufficient.
5. We would hand out Peace’s Steps Toward Inner Peace and contact media along the way.
6. We would collect aluminum cans as we walked to pay for gas and occasional campgrounds.

It was an exciting adventure and we put our heads together as we made plans. Not as experienced and simple as Peace had been on her own, we decided we would have a support vehicle to carry our gear. AZ retrieved an old pop-up trailer he had stored away and attached it to his station wagon. The pop-up had a kitchen for group meals along with limited seating and space for 3 or 4 to sleep if needed. AB and my father designed and built an ingenious fiberglass pop-up outhouse that folded down for less wind resistance and attached it to the back of the trailer. Together we created a large sign that extended the length of the car and was secured lengthwise on the roof. The background was blue and “PRAYER FOR PEACE PILGRIMAGE” was painted in black on both sides.

I worked on creating the route and time table that would take us from San Francisco to our destination, Washington DC, along with post offices where we could receive mail addressed to general delivery. When we arrived at each destination we could pick up and send mail. There were no cell phones at that time so mail and occasional calls by pay phone were the way we kept in touch. Richard Polese helped put news releases together and sent them ahead of us to towns along the way. I designed navy blue tunics reminiscent of what Peace wore but with a separate front and back that tied together, allowing for adjustments in size by loosening or tightening the laces. White letters proclaiming “Another Pilgrim for Peace” were on the front and “Walking Coast to Coast for Peace” on the back.

After checking in with other groups who had organized peace walks across the country I received a call from Kenny Brief, who had been with the Moscow Pilgrimage. I went to a nearby town to meet him and pick up his journal – The Story of a Seeker: Reflections on a Peace Pilgrimage. When I asked him what he could tell me about his walk he said, “It wasn’t what I expected and it wasn’t what I wanted. In retrospect I can say it was what I needed.”

A few days before our departure we gathered in Half Moon Bay. Kenny was going to join us and share his experiences. Two men and one woman were supposed to meet us but didn’t show up. That left me with a group of 5 men - AB, AZ and three friends, John, Pete, and Jeff. Others were expecting to meet us along the way. I slept in a tube tent that night and was joined by a cat.

In the morning I sat at a table writing, waiting for Kenny. Before Kenny arrived a car drove up with two women in it. They had seen members of our group wearing their blue tunics with “ANOTHER PILGRIM FOR PEACE” in large white letters and were very excited. They were part of an active Peace Group and they invited us to join their meeting that night. Kenny arrived in the afternoon to share his ‘Walk to Moscow’ experiences. We all went to Gail’s home to a pot luck dinner and meeting with Coastsiders For a Nuclear-Free World.

The next day we joined an organized peace walk and in the evening had a pot luck dinner at our beach site. We were joined by my parents, my daughter Cindy, and her husband Randy. Kenny and a couple of women from Coastsiders joined us. In the morning we moved our group to an R.V. park in San Francisco. It poured rain all morning and drizzled for the rest of the day. I walked 12 or 13 miles around the city with AB, wearing our lettered tunics. While in a surplus store a young girl gave us a beautiful yellow flower in exchange for AB’s WORLD PEACE PLEDGE badge. While walking a man who was begging quarters from others offered us “a couple of bucks.”


Cheryl Canfield, CCHT, 2023