For 28 years, a woman known only as the Peace Pilgrim walked for peace, crisscrossing America and parts of Canada. "I own only what I wear and carry," she told an interviewer. What she wore were blue pants and a blue tunic with "Peace Pilgrim" in large white letters printed across the front. On the back was the number of miles she had walked until she stopped counting in 1964: "25,000/Miles/on Foot/for/World Peace." (Her total mileage was probably close to 80,000 miles on foot.) In her pockets, she carried a pen, a comb, a toothbrush, and a map. Day after day, the kindness of strangers housed and fed her: "I don't even ask, it's given without asking . . . . people are good."
Mildred Lisette Norman Ryder was 44 years old when she adopted the name Peace Pilgrim on January 1, 1953. The year before she had prepared herself for her pilgrimage by walking the Appalachian Trail in one season, the first woman to do that. Her decision to become the Peace Pilgrim grew out of a long period of seeking "for a meaningful way of life."
Her pilgrimage sadly ended, on July 7, 1981, at the age of 73: Riding in a car on her way to give a speech, she was killed in a head-on collision. Two years later, on January 1, her friends published a book with her writings, speeches, and pictures: Peace Pilgrim: Her Life and Work in Her Own Words, and a booklet Steps Toward Inner Peace: Harmonious Principles for Human Living. A booklet of her teachings appeared in 1992: Steps Toward Inner Peace: Harmonious Principles for Human Living.
The Korean War was ongoing in 1953 when the Peace Pilgrim starting walking for peace. Sixty-nine years and many subsequent wars later and with Russia's war on the Ukraine raging, Linda and I took a road trip to Peace Pilgrim Park in Egg Harbor City, NJ, the Peace Pilgrim's hometown.
Founded in 2005 on the site of the former Neutral Water Health Resort, the Peace Pilgrim Park has a large sign painted a beautiful blue with her words: "Overcome evil with good, falsehood with truth and hatred with love." Inside there are gardens, one with a large peace sign, a plaque, and a statue by Sally McInerney
set on a base of colorful tiles painted by local children. A series of small wood signs at the base of towering pine trees offer advice such as, "Live good beliefs."
Hoping to find Peace Pilgrim’s grave, we stopped at Germania Cemetery located on W. Moss Mill Road. Over the years, we have visited countless cemeteries in search of a woman's grave. Sometimes it is easy, most times it requires a lot of traipsing and luck. This time I unknowingly parked right beside the Peace Pilgrim's
grave, and I almost walked past the small headstone, a little bit sunken in the sandy soil. But then I saw the pine cone heart
and peace symbol! With a grateful and reverent heart, I stood and waited for Linda to join me as we paid our respects to the Peace Pilgrim.
For more information, here is the link to an informative website:www.peacepilgrim.org
Statue by Sally McInerney