Man's run to aid cemetery is temporarily put to rest

February 07, 2005|By Liz Bowie | Liz Bowie,SUN STAFF

Warren Wiggins, the Baltimore runner who pledged to raise money to fix up Mount Auburn Cemetery by running across the country, has temporarily cut his trip short.

After three days of running east from Los Angeles, Wiggins said mechanical problems afflicted the motor home he needed to sleep and cook in. So he decided to come home.

"We are not abandoning the effort. We are still trying to pull it through," Wiggins said. He hopes to sell the current motor home and buy a newer, used one. If all goes well, the 49-year-old former science teacher might be out on the road next month.

He said the drive west in cold weather was harder on the old motor home than he thought it would be. Both the generator and the furnace gave out, so he was sleeping in the cold, and the food in the refrigerator was spoiling.

Wiggins and a friend, Patricia FitzHugh, who had agreed to drive the motor home for him while he ran, decided to come back to the East Coast after mechanics estimated repairs to the vehicle would cost $3,000.

Wiggins and FitzHugh both have relatives buried at Mount Auburn, believed to be the oldest African-American cemetery in Baltimore. Many renowned blacks are buried there, including Dr. Louise Young, Baltimore's first black female doctor and John Henry Murphy, the editor and founder of the Afro American, the city's black newspaper.

Unlike many cemeteries, there was never a fund established to keep maintenance costs paid in perpetuity, and the cemetery has deteriorated.

Wiggins hoped to be part of a large fund-raising effort that would finally enable the cemetery to be completely renovated. Wiggins said that when he began the run he was most worried about his body wearing out.

"I was fine. My plan for the conditioning worked out well, but the equipment didn't hold up."

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