Traverse City Record-Eagle

Archive: Sunday

September 15, 2013

Long walk for awareness

BENZONIA — It’s been nearly four years since Dean Cobb got the call.

The retired theater teacher remembers the day vividly. A secretary walked into his classroom at North Farmington High School and told him his daughter was on the phone.

”I was in my fifth-hour class, my last class of the day. A secretary came down and said ‘you need to take this call. It’s your daughter,’” Cobb said. “I immediately left and found out.”

Cobb’s daughter, already hysterical, told him her husband, Adam Tupa, 32, had killed himself that October afternoon in 2009.

“It obviously devastated our family,” Cobb said. “It was so unexpected and so out of the blue.”

Tupa left behind his wife and two young daughters. He also left a large extended family that spent the following years fighting its way though the anger and frustration that often follows in the wake of suicide.

Cobb was no different.

“I was so angry,” Cobb, 62, said. “And I continued the anger and that’s not the way to get past this. If I dwell on it, it comes back again. We were very close to him.”

Then, in 2011, just before retiring from teaching, Cobb decided he needed to do something. There were plenty of small events that try to raise awareness for suicide prevention causes, but he wanted to do something that would reach more people than those who, like him, already know the effects of suicide.

”I said to myself, ‘when I retire, I’m going to do something,’” he said. “‘I don’t know what it is, but I’m going to do something.’ I have to do something, it may be my cathartic nature.”

So Cobb hatched a plan to walk from his beloved vacation spot in Frankfort to his home in Hartland. The 224-mile walk would give the 41-year veteran teacher a chance to talk to many people about suicide prevention along the way. He worked out daily by walking routes in the neighborhoods near his downstate home. He arranged donated motel rooms spaced 20 miles apart along the route. And he recruited Duane Fox, liaison officer for Farmington schools, a close friend, to make the trek by his side.

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