Meet Mary Hesch


Mary's Journey

Mary Hesch walked from Wisconsin to the Gulf of Mexico in a 1,450-mile "pilgrimage of love" in honor of her mother who died from pulmonary fibrosis from September 15th to December 30th. Mary set out on this journey with a goal to raise $50,000 for people who are living with PF. She trekked through five states, appeared in local media, was interviewed by CNN, and raised over $40,000 to date.

This is her story

My name is Mary and I’m excited to share that I went on a journey. A journey for a life. A journey that called me and spoke to my heart. A journey to honor the life of my mother, Mary E. Hesch, whose life was cut far too short on April 3, 1997 from idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis.

My mother was an amazing woman. She raised six children with love and kindness, and modeled a passion for life. She was an incredible mother. She loved walking. She loved traveling. She loved to read and work crossword puzzles. She loved making the holidays special with decoration and cheer, especially for Christmas. She was a fabulous gourmet cook. She was a devoted and loving wife. She had a mesmerizing and wonderful voice, performing powerful songs from weddings to funerals, from local radio shows to theater starring roles. She was simply an amazing human being. I have always been honored and touched to be named after my mother. I absolutely treasure and cherish being given the name Mary Hesch.

On September 15, 2021, I began a pilgrimage walk of 1,450 miles to honor the life of my mother. I started from my home in central Wisconsin and ended on December 30, 2021 in Port Aransas, Texas. This is where my mother’s ashes were scattered in the ocean after her death. I was joined by wonderful friends to help me on my walk. Clarence and Joan Dold accompanied me along the entire route. Also, my wife Paige joined me once a month along the route to help as well. I couldn't have done this without their support! 

On day 89 of my journey, I received a devastating call. My father, my biggest cheerleader, had suffered a heart attack and passed away. My mission now had an additional dimension that made the walk even more special. My journey took on a bigger purpose and I was now walking to reunite both of my parents. 

When I arrived in Port Aransas, I was greeted and joined by my siblings, their families, and my father’s wife Lois for a 25-year anniversary and celebration of my mother and father’s lives. We celebrated their lives and threw white long stemmed roses in the ocean for my mother and now, red long stemmed roses for my father.

My late father remarried years after my mother’s passing. It was my stepmom’s daughter's idea to walk for charity. My stepmom then suggested that the charity could be for pulmonary fibrosis which caused my mother’s death. I chose the Pulmonary Fibrosis Foundation and was able to raise almost $39,000 and counting. My journey was bigger than life and had a bigger purpose. My journey helped the life of others that are struggling with this disease. A disease with an unknown cause and no known cure.

I hope one day that changes.


Orville Hesch

Mary walked in honor of her mother and namesake, who she lost 25 years ago to PF. Port Aransas was her mother’s favorite place because she could breathe more easily at sea level. On December 30, the family gathered again to celebrate the life of their mother. They also honored their late father, Orville Hesch, who passed away suddenly on December 12, 2021 during Mary’s walk. Orville was 93 years old and was a huge supporter of Mary’s journey. Here is a special letter describing the walk from Orville's perspective. Mary received this letter in November, just a month before his passing.

Media Recap 

Media outlets followed Mary Hesch’s 1,450-mile pilgrimage every step of the way in Wisconsin, Illinois, Missouri, Arkansas and Texas. From local stories to national coverage, highlights include: