Longtime Concord resident Lou Sillari used to walk 5 miles a day, but recently cut the routine back to 4½ miles, "being respectful of my age," he said. His neighbor, Lynn Carlson, once turned down an offer to join Sillari after he briefed her on the proper preparation and footwear necessary to complete the task.
"That kind of went by the wayside for me because I don't think I could have caught up with him," Carlson said.
Oh, and there's this - Sillari turns 97 this year.
Don't expect that to slow him down, though. After all, not even the frigid winter months can keep Sillari from making his daily trek around the neighborhood, which he does faithfully year-round, save for the day of a snowstorm and perhaps the day after.
"I have days where I don't feel like going out, but I do anyway, and usually I'm only out for about 5 or 10 minutes and I'm glad I'm out," Sillari said. "Now the habit has formed so strongly that I miss it. If I don't go out, I miss it. I know I didn't do something right. It keeps me going."
And going strong. Every morning Sillari rises a little after 5 a.m. and zips through 20 minutes of stretching and light exercise before eating breakfast and hitting the streets between 8:30 and 8:45. From there he can be seen navigating a route that begins on Conant Street and includes stops on Iron Works Road, Broadway, Rockingham Street and Carter Street before he arrives back at "home base."
The walks have long been part of Sillari's routine. He used to share them with his wife, Stella, who would keep pace until they reached a farm stand on Clinton Street before ultimately turning back because "she'd say, 'I have things to do,' " Sillari said.
Stella passed away six years ago, but the walks have remained part of Sillari's daily schedule. It's been a rewarding experience, as he has met a handful of people who have grown to be more than just casual acquaintances.
"I've met some great friends," Sillari said of a variety of people who will either join him for part of the journey or simply stop to say hello. "Depending on who I stop to talk to, it can take quite awhile. But with no stopping it only takes me about an hour and a half."
Sillari's not living on some sort of fad diet, either. His breakfast routine has long remained unchanged, consisting of a bowl of mixed fruit, a dish of cold cereal and perhaps the real secret to his longevity - a cup of black coffee with a shot of brandy in it and a slice of toast.
He also said he enjoys a gin and tonic at about 3 p.m. every day, an extension of another tradition he enjoyed with Stella.
He stays faithful to his walking equipment, too, always strolling in a pair of white Nikes, even if he doesn't necessarily subscribe to all the theories he reads regarding sneaker selection.
"According to the experts, they claim you should change your shoes every three months. But every three months they don't look worn out to me," Sillari said. "I usually go from one spring to another (in the same pair)."
The walks keep Sillari connected to the city he's lived in for all but two months of his life. He was born in Milford, but his family moved shortly thereafter, most likely for reasons other than the ones cited in Sillari's version of the story.
"I tell people my family had to leave Milford because I raised too much hell," Sillari quips.
He spent the majority of his career at Samuel Eastman Co. and raised two children in the city with Stella. Before settling on his current routine he said he used to walk through downtown, arriving home in time for dinner with the family.
The walks have done more than just keep Sillari emotionally grounded. Though he wakes at 5 a.m., he often stays up until 10:30 or 11 p.m., he said, a schedule many people half his age would struggle to maintain. (next page »)