By Jennifer Hoegg
Anthoney Wheeler’s bright smile will be missed.
Anyone who drives the 101 between New Minas and Coldbrook has probably passed the Nordic walker devotee, known as the “ski pole walker” and the “TAN walking man.” Wheeler died Sept. 11 at the age of 69. He had a heart attack the week before.
In an interview last October, Wheeler said his walking started out of concern for his health. Weighing in at 329 pounds in 1995, he had stomach-stapling surgery done. The follow-up prescription was 30 minutes of exercise a day. Wheeler changed his habits, walked on treadmills and went to the gym.
About 11 years ago, he started his highway treks. “I do about 70 miles a week,” he said. “My wife treats me like an old dog: she takes me out to Coldbrook and drops me off and I walk home. On the weekends, I like to leave (New Minas) and walk to Frenchys.”
He had a large local following, including a Facebook group, Have you seen the Ski Pole Walking Man?, with 686 members. An online petition to name the stretch of highway he walked on in his honour was nearing 750 signatures Sept. 13.
Wheeler was chosen to lead walkers at the 2012 Valley Harvest Marathon.
Wheeler was also known for the vest advertising Tan Coffee that he sported on his daily treks.
“Anthoney Wheeler is a friend and strong supporter of T.A.N. Coffee. He stopped in our Coldbrook cafe every day for the last five years,” Lay Yong Tan said Friday.
“When we started TAN coffee, (partner Keeping Lau) approached Anthoney,” Tan said. “We made the banner and then we let him wear it. We asked him if he needed anything in return, he said he just needed a spot to catch few breaths and a cup of coffee.”
Wheeler became part of the T.A.N. team, he added.
“He knew we were starting out and he knew it was hard to start a business. He was kind and generous to help us out.” Tan said he talked to Wheeler a few times a week.
“I talked to him just last week – maybe a few days before his heart attack,” Tan said. “Everyone liked him and get a charge out of his big smile. “I’ll miss him.”
In a Facebook posting, Wheeler's daughter said his memorial service will take place at Kentville's Kingsway Assembly Church, 3 p.m., Sept. 22.