Frank and Dolores Kology have a goal. They want to walk to the North Pole. It’s a tongue-in-cheek goal, but it is still quite an effort for the couple. He’s 93, and she’s 91.
Their trek begins from their Sun City Summerlin home. They walk a circuit of 1½ miles every night. It’s something they’ve done for the past three years without fail.
“We do it rain or shine. If it’s raining, we take an umbrella,” Frank said. “… I figure we’re halfway through Canada right now. We call it, ‘North Pole or Bust.’ “
Indeed, if one does the math, they walk almost 550 miles per year. Their doctors say they are both physically fit for their ages.
“Exercise (walking/aerobic) is very important at all ages but increases as one ages,” noted Dr. Keith Boman, a Las Vegas cardiologist who does not treat the couple. “What is most important is the duration of exercise. One should strive for 30 minutes of activity at least four times a week. … Seniors should strive to increase their activity levels so that they cannot talk easily while doing the exercise.”
The couple’s nightly walks usually take about 45 minutes.
The pair have always been physically active in some way, ever since they met in high school in Billings, Mont. Dolores was a runner in the school library when she caught Frank’s eye. At roller skating dances, she’d save the moonlight dance, the last one of the night, for him.
“It was kind of romantic,” he said.
He took her to the school prom.
After graduating, they were married in January, but it wasn’t all bliss for the couple. World War II was starting, and Frank was called to the war that spring, entering the Air Corps. He became a glider pilot and recalled delivering a Jeep and two infantrymen and radio supplies for the Allied invasion of Normandy. Dolores, who was in college, didn’t just write him letters, she wrote him short stories, jotted down in spiral tablets.
“She’d mail me the entire tablet,” he said.
He returned to her and used his GI support to go to college where he earned degrees in business and education. A job as a principal at the Miller School, 1905 Atlantic St., brought them to Las Vegas in 1963. Delores was hired as the executive secretary for the general manager of the Desert Inn, when Howard Hughes came to town and took over the top floor before buying the hotel.
The couple did not have children, but that left them time to indulge in various activities such as golf and hiking. They hiked the Grand Canyon, down and back, in one day. They often drove to Mount Charleston and explored various trails. Frank recalled one time at the top of the peak when the wind kicked up, and Dolores was not dressed for the cold weather.
“She got hypothermia,” he recalled. “… She was lethargic.”
There was a large piece of metal from a plane wreck that was sitting in the sun. He had her huddle into it, to help her warm up.
Another hike had them in crampons as they ascended an icy Mount Adams in Washington state on a night hike.
“We got to the top and the sun came up, and what a thrill. It was the most beautiful thing,” Frank said. “I said, ‘What’s that peak?’ and the (guide) said, ‘That’s Mount St. Helens.’ “
Time and health — Frank had knee issues and a skin cancer scare — slowed them a bit, but Dolores’ situation was of the most concern. Ten years ago, she passed out while dancing with Sun City’s dance team. She was checked out and diagnosed with dementia.
Now, hers is a quiet, withdrawn world. She’s rational but doesn’t recall things. She seldom talks. Frank is her sole caretaker, doing the shopping, the laundry, making their meals, feeding her, bathing her and trying to nudge her memory back.
“I leave the photo album out on the coffee table, hoping she’ll look at the pictures and remember,” he said.
And he sees that she gets her exercise, hoping it staves off any further deterioration. He drove various routes from their house, clocking the mileage on the odometer, so their walks include various routes.
Dolores is prone to taking walks on her own. Neighbors have rung the doorbell and brought her back. The front door now sports a lock that she cannot operate.
As he helped her into her walking shoes for this evening’s walk, he told her that she’d always be his girl and that there had never been anyone else, only her.
“Aren’t you the one?” he said.
“Yeah, I am,” she said back, her face glowing with a sudden smile.
When they walk, they always hold hands or link arms. Observers may think it’s a solely a sign of affection, but it’s also to help Dolores maintain her balance.
“I’ve got you,” Frank told her as they started out again, to tick off another 1½ miles on their way to the North Pole.
Contact Summerlin Area View reporter Jan Hogan at firstname.lastname@example.org or 702-387-2949.