West Allis — In the bitter cold pre-dawn dark, as the mercury shivered at 15 degrees below zero, Judy Rehm kissed her husband goodbye and set off for her three-mile journey to work — on foot.
Rehm, who regularly walks six miles roundtrip three days a week between the Aurora West Allis Medical Center and her home, said it never occurred to her to drive on Jan. 7.
"I kind of wanted to test out a new coat I got," she said. "And I start better than my car."
So, on the road last week in the dangerous cold, Rehm set out from home with a plan: If she didn't warm up as she walked briskly she would turn around and give her car a try.
"I started out a little cool, not cold," she said.
As it turned out, Rehm arrived at work actually sweating. By that time it was 6:10 a.m. It took Rehm about 20 minutes to unbundle, wash up and change for work.
Dressed for the trek
She credited her wardrobe for her successful effort.
It started with her new down fiber jacket, purchased at a department store, not a fancy outdoor retailer, either.
She also wore pantyhose, two pairs of long underwear and jeans, two pairs of knee-high socks plus more socks and a pair of winter hiking boots that she bought a half size bigger than her regular size to accommodate the socks.
On her head, she wore an ear band, a ski mask, a knit hat over it all and a scarf around her neck.
On her hands, she wore two sets of mittens, one regular and one extra large. Her hands were actually sweating despite the 15 degrees below.
The boots are the only part of her gear that she spent some extra money on, she said.
"The snow, water and puddles are really hard on them," she said, and you don't want them leaking and you do want the tread to last. So, for those she will go to a place like Gander Mountain and pay $150 or $170, she said. But her boots have lasted her eight or nine years, so far, she said.
Rehm has astonished her colleagues at the hospital before with her walking exploits.
A couple years ago, she plowed through a blizzard to get to work, wading through snowdrifts and following tire tracks on National Avenue. That snow trek took 90 minutes, but Rehm made it in plenty of time for her 6:30 a.m. shift as a medical technologist.
And last week was not her first arctic-like hike.
Rehm braved a couple days that were 25 and 20 degrees below zero when she worked at the former New Berlin Hospital. She and her husband lived only a mile from the hospital and, again, she arrived overheated. That was back in the 1980s, she figures.
Rehm started walking or biking to work for weight control, but now at age 61 health takes a front seat. The older she gets the more she thinks that walking has helped her avoid health problems she has seen crop up in peers.
"I credit it with keeping me pretty healthy," Rehm said.
— Jane Ford-Stewart
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