I traveled to Georgia this past weekend to visit family and to attend a memorial service for fellow Appalachian Trail hiker Gerry ‘Inchworm’ Largay on Saturday, October 12th. If you have followed my blog you know that I met Inchworm on the trail in Maine and was able to spend time with her and her husband, George. Inchworm went missing on the trail around July 22-23 and no sign of her has been found. The official search was called off in August. It is extremely rare for a missing hiker not to be found within a few days, so Inchworm’s disappearance is still a mystery.
The memorial service was held at Saint Brigid Catholic Church in Johns Creek, Georgia, north of Atlanta. Saint Brigid is a large, beautiful church which was packed with Inchworm’s friends and family. The service was led by Father Mark Beckman of Nashville who has known the Largay family for many years. The service, a Celebration of Life Mass, included remarks from two friends, Inchworm’s two children and her husband, George. The mass included readings, hymns and songs with frequent references to ‘mountains’, reflecting Inchworm’s love of nature. A highlight was the cantor’s rendition of ‘Climb Every Mountain’ from The Sound of Music. I must have heard that song a hundred times but I have never paid such close attention to the lyrics as I did on Saturday. There was not a dry eye in the church.
The common theme in the mass and in the remarks of friends and family was what a wonderful and loving person Inchworm was and how much she will me missed. Despite the deep sadness that everyone feels about Inchworm’s disappearance, there is some comfort in knowing that her life helped and inspired hundreds, maybe thousands, of others and that she was pursuing her life’s dream when she went missing. In addition to her love of family, nature and backpacking, Inchworm was active in her church and in community organizations that helped newcomers to the area and also provided help for those in need. Anyone who met her was lifted up by her enthusiastic and joyful spirit – I know I was.
Father Beckman voiced everyone’s wish that we will someday know what happened to Inchworm but as George said, we need to focus on what comes next in our lives rather than mourning Inchworm’s fate. George and his family obviously have a strong faith that is comforting them in such a tragic situation.
I am pleased that I was able to attend the service and I am inspired by the strong positive influence that Inchworm had on people who knew her. Even though I only knew Inchworm for a very short time, I am confident in saying that she left a very large footprint in our world – maybe I should say it’s a ‘bootprint’.
Farewell Inchworm. I will always remember seeing you for the first time – your smiling face on the west peak of Baldplate Mountain as you sat there enjoying the beautiful panorama of the mountains of Maine.