Brown County is preparing to welcome 91-year-old coast-to-coast runner Ernie Andrus, a World War II Navy veteran who may enter Brown County as early as Saturday and is expected to run through Brownwood next Thursday, May 7.
Local runners will escort Andrus through the county, and a courthouse reception for him has been scheduled from noon to 1 pm. Thursday at the Brown County Courthouse.
Andrus runs three days a week, covering 6-8 miles a day. His purpose is to raise funds to said a ship called the LST (Landing Ship, Tank) 325 back to Normandy, where the ship anchored off Omaha Beach on June 7, 1944 and unloaded troops and vehicles.
Andrus said in an earlier interview that he served on an LST designated 124 in the Pacific.
Andrus has been running since the mid-1980s after retiring from a career in retail in Los Angeles, according to www.warhistoryonline.com.
Tammy Poole of Brownwood is part of a loosely organized group of residents in the Brownwood-Early area has been following Andrus’ progress and has arranged for the escort runners.
Poole said Andrus ran through Santa Anna on Thursday, and Friday is a non-running day. When Andrus resumes running Saturday, Poole said, she anticipates he’ll cross into Brown County on Saturday or Monday.
“I am guessing Monday he’ll be in Bangs,” Poole said. “He’s told us he’s coming through Brownwood on May 7. He’s getting close. We’re getting very excited to see him.”
On Thursday, Andrus plans to stop near the the Taquito Millonario near Heartland Mall, then resume running Saturday, heading down U.S. Highway 183 toward Zephyr, Poole said.
“We’re going to try to escort him all the way to Zephyr,” she said.
Poole and other members of the local group have discussed ways to raise money for Andrus and decided to simply refer donors to www.coast2coastruns.com, where donations can be made online.
Andrus travels in an RV and parks it, then runs. After each day’s run is completed, he gets a ride back to his RV.
When Poole and some of her friends learned about Andrus’ cross-country run and learned he will run through Brownwood, she and her friends agreed: “We really need to support him. … Ninety years old, and running?” Poole said earlier.
Residents from other communities have run with him as he has passed through, and the local group is considering ideas such as encouraging residents to donate as actual or virtual runners.
The website, www.coast2coastruns.com, explains what Andrus is attempting:
“My name is Ernie Andrus and I plan to run coast to coast in 2 to 4 years. (Super Senior Coast to Coast Run). I turned 90 in August, 2013. I started by touching the Pacific Ocean near San Diego CA., on October 7th, 2013 and will touch the Atlantic Ocean near Brunswick, GA., two to four years later.
“This feat is being undertaken to raise money for the LST 325 SHIP MEMORIAL, INC. I was one of the crew that brought the LST 325 back from the Isle of Crete, Greece to the US in 2000, 2001 as aired on the history channel as The Return of LST 325. (There were) 1,051 LSTs built during World War II. The 325 is the only one left that has been restored and is still operational. Plans were being made to return the ship to Normandy for the D day memorial service (D day plus 70, 2014) and beach it at the same location where it was on Omaha beach 70 years before. The cost of taking this ship across the Atlantic and back is tremendous. Shortage of finances caused the 2014 trip to be canceled. Perhaps we can raise enough money for D Day plus 75 in 2019.
“I plan on running 3 days a week averaging between a 1/2 marathon and a marathon a week. I welcome any runners who would like to join me on any leg of my journey.
“Anyone interested in being a part of this venture, I can be reached at 928-308-5478, email, or 928-445-6613. Draw a line from San Diego, CA., to Brunswick, GA., and this will give you a general idea of the course I will be taking.”
The LST 325 is 327 feet in length. According to www.lstmemoiral.org:
“These ships were designed in 1942 to land battle ready tanks, vehicles, soldiers, and supplies directly onto enemy beaches. Over 1,000 of these ships were built for World War II. Many more were built for the Korean and Vietnam Wars for their ability to navigate inland waterways.
“USS LST 325 participated in several operations, most notable was D-Day at Omaha Beach, Normandy. She was there for Operation HUSKY, the invasion of Sicily in 1943. She sailed as support for the invasion of Salerno, Italy later that year. This ship has seen 70 years of history and survived as the last fully-operational WWII LST.”
The LST 325 is docked in Evansville, Ind.