1,700 Miles: Woonsocket, RI To Woonsocket, SD
by Jeff Rusack, Reporter
October 04, 2012 7:03 PM
The state of Rhode Island could easily fit in a number of South Dakota counties. But, the smallest state in America has influenced the Mount Rushmore State in one way.
CJ Prior, a railroad worker from Rhode Island, founded the city of Woonsocket, South Dakota. It's a small city located south of Huron. He named it after his native city, Woonsocket, Rhode Island.
Seventeen hundred miles separate the two cities and one Rhode Islander just finished his journey between the only two Woonsockets in America.
“Seventeen Hundred. But, who's counting? I am,” said Bill Fagan as the water tower Woonsocket, SD, loomed over the horizon ahead of him.
It was a trek like no other, miles upon miles of walking, day after day, sometimes more than 30 a day.
Bill Fagan has no plans of crossing the country or hiking the Appalachian Trail.
“That's an admirable thing to do but it just didn't mean anything to me,” said Fagan.
Fagan's destination is not one people normally think of, a city of well under a thousand, Woonsocket, South Dakota.
But for Fagan, it's the finish line for his four year, on again off again, challenge.
The Woonsocket-to-Woonsocket excursion wouldn't have gotten passed Connecticut without his wife off 44 years.
“Alright be careful crossing the street,” said Fagan as he kissed his wife Janice.
“You don't take on a walk like this if you don't have a dedicated and committed and very understanding spouse,” said Fagan.
There's about 1,700 miles between the two cities but the walking Rhode Islander says there is more in common between the two cities than you might think.
“Woonsocket, South Dakota And Woonsocket, Rhode Island; Great people in both places,” said Fagan.
Fighting many elements along the way, South Dakota's wind slowed Fagan's 15 minutes per mile pace.
“I’m thinking, hey! Maybe Woonsocket doesn't want me to get there? It keeps blowing me back to Mitchell,” joked Fagan.
Fagan expected a calm entrance into Woonsocket without any hoopla. But, after finishing his final 13-mile stretch, the city of Woonsocket welcomed a fellow man from a different Woonsocket, in style.
“I can't tell you how much I appreciate the outpouring of support from the community. I didn't expect this,” said Fagan.
“I can't even express it. I'm so full of emotion. It's unreal,” said Janice Fagan.
While the journey of a lifetime ends, Bill Fagan has no plans for any similar walks in the future.
“Well, I'm not going to walk back,” said Fagan.