HWLW 071512 033 resized 600Bob Murray (left) hands out water during the Bob Murray Housing with Love Walk in 2012.

Though the late Bob Murray was unable to participate in last year’s annual Housing with Love Walk he started 22 years ago, he fervently followed the progress of those who walked from one end of the Cape to the other in an effort to meet the housing needs in the region.

“Every day I’d take a photograph of the walk and send it to him,” said Thomas Lacey, executive director of the Falmouth Housing Authority. “His reaction would vary depending on the day. Sometimes he would well up with tears of happiness. A lot of times he would comment on how he wished he was there. I think if we could have pushed him through the walk he would have done it.”

That is what the event – it was officially changed to the Bob Murray Housing with Love Walk in 2012 – meant to the longtime advocate of affordable housing on Cape Cod.

Its purpose was twofold: raise awareness of the housing issues in the region and raise funds to provide residents with safe, secure housing to allow them the opportunity to enjoy this corner of the state.

For medical reasons Murray did not take part in the annual event last year. This year’s walk will carry even more weight – it will be the first held since his death at the age of 73 last September.

The challenge of organizing this year’s event, which normally fell squarely on Murray’s shoulders, has been spread among a committee of volunteers. “Bob did it all by himself,” said Linda Clark, director of the Falmouth Housing Corporation. “We were a little taken aback when we began to understand the magnitude of the work involved for the walk to take place.”

That work has included everything from managing publicity to signing up walkers to creating a new brochure providing information on the walk. One of HAC’s roles this year is shuttling walkers along the route and providing a support van for participants.

New this year is the route which, while still going from Provincetown to Falmouth, will be modified to ensure the safety of walkers.

A total of 11 housing agencies, including HAC, benefit from the walk which begins on Monday, July 14 at St. Mary’s Church and ends on Sunday, July 20 at Liam Maguire’s Irish Pub & Restaurant in Falmouth.

Murray’s Presence Will Be Felt

While Murray will not be in attendance, organizers said his presence will be strongly felt over the seven-day event. His wife Judy will be in attendance at the start of the walk. And a pair of well-used sneakers that Murray once wore in the walk and have since been bronzed will be carried by one walker each day in memory of the event’s founder.

Both Lacey and Clark plan on walking the entire 96.3-mile route to honor their friend, mentor and former co-worker. “It is really important to me to honor Bob this way,” Lacey said.

In recent years Murray “started the walk off with physical challenges that were only exacerbated by it,” Lacey said, and as a result he had to occasionally be rushed to the hospital or cut short his participation due to blisters, dehydration and physical fatigue.

Suffering was something Murray wanted participants, including himself, to feel as a way to better understand the plight of those without housing or working paycheck to paycheck just to live on Cape Cod. “He wanted people to feel a little bit of the pain they felt,” Clark said, explaining that is why it is held in July, one of the hottest months of the year.

Because of how important this event was to Murray, the goal is to ensure the walk continues on as a way to preserve his legacy. “I think it would make Bob really happy to see the walk continuing, really in the same way he created it with the partnerships of all these different Cape organizations and the camaraderie it creates, especially in support of tackling the Cape’s housing issues,” Lacey said.