The steps to a friendship

By Ian Neligh
Posted 8/16/10

It’s time to walk. CR MacLellan grabs his cowboy hat and well-worn walking stick, and heads for the door as Matt Jessup follows — also grabbing a walking stick. Since they started walking …

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The steps to a friendship


It’s time to walk.

CR MacLellan grabs his cowboy hat and well-worn walking stick, and heads for the door as Matt Jessup follows — also grabbing a walking stick.

Since they started walking around the Cotton Wood Trailer Park on June 22, both are well on their way to achieving their goals. MacLellan, 63, needed someone to keep an eye on him on his walks as he slowly gets stronger after a hospital stay. Matt, 11, wanted to save up enough money for a snowboard. Matt’s weekly salary for accompanying MacLellan is $20.

Just as importantly, they’ve found a mutual friendship that bridges their 52-year age difference — a friendship based on the common interests of soccer and fishing.

“(Matt) likes getting $20 at the end of the week, but I think he considers (MacLellan) his friend more than anything else,” said Matt’s mom, Dawn Luiso. “I think that younger people can be friends with older people, and that is something that I think is important for my son to know.”

Without much ceremony, the two head outside. Matt’s walking stick towers over his head and leaves a long shadow trailing behind them. It’s a beautiful day, and a local cat strolls past as they slowly make their way across the gravel parking lot.

The duo walk sometimes twice a day five days a week. They talk about everything from soccer to history to fishing. And Westerns and the Dust Bowl.

“A whole bunch of stuff,” Matt agrees. “Like buccaneers — that means jerky maker. We talk about fish and his paintings. … He paints a lot of stuff.”

With fall’s inexorable approach, Matt’s desire to get a snowboard has changed into a dream of a BB gun. But school hasn’t started yet, and soon MacLellan plans to teach Matt how to fly fish.

MacLellan said he’s walking four times as far as when they started and hopes by the time school starts to be walking unattended. He said Matt’s walking with him helps out in several different ways.

“One is, it’s a safety thing, so if I do fall, it is not a question of him helping me up. He carries a big, long stick, so I can pull myself up on it,” MacLellan said. “He can go to a house around here and get help. I told him if I start to go down, he’s not to try to catch me or break my fall — that’s not his purpose. And if I fell in the street, I’d appreciate a little quicker action than if I’m on the side of the road.”

Other days MacLellan said Matt helps by motivating him to get outside and exercise even when pain makes exercising a struggle.

“And the third way is just company, you know. I enjoy being with him, and we talk about all different kinds of things,” MacLellan said. “I live by myself, and the cats are fine animals, but they’re not much on conversation.”

A close call

MacLellan moved to Clear Creek County from Maryland more than five years ago after suffering a stroke. He lives close to his daughter, who lives in Evergreen.

“I called her on the phone, and I said, ‘I know that this is not probably No. 1 on your top-10 list, but I’m thinking about moving, and one of the places is out West,’ “ MacLellan said.

MacLellan had fond memories of the state from a trip he took with the Boy Scouts when he was 14 to Philmont Scout Ranch.

MacLellan had spent 30 years living in downtown Baltimore working as a graphic designer and later owning and operating a fly-fishing shop.

“My dreams of the West have always been on the plains looking at the mountains, as opposed to being in the mountains looking at the next mountain,” MacLellan joked.

Last year MacLellan lost the sight in one eye due to health complications, and earlier this year he suffered kidney failure. His daughter found him lying on the floor of his home. He had been there for 16 hours.

“When they got me to the hospital, I didn’t know what year it was, who the president was, I didn’t know the name of the town where my doctor was,” MacLellan said. “… I was in critical condition for three days — and then (finally) snapped out of it.”

MacLellan found he couldn’t walk more than 20 feet without becoming exhausted. For the first several weeks after his release from the hospital, he stayed inside and didn’t do much but watch the World Cup.

“And for as much as I love watching soccer, I realized I wasn’t going to get any stronger watching other people do athletic things, even though I used to do them myself,” MacLellan said.

An 11-year-old physical therapist

MacLellan said he knew he needed to start building up his strength again but was afraid to do it by himself in case he fell.

“I didn’t want to go out there and try to walk by myself, and run this risk of collapsing or falling over and hurting myself, so I needed a physical therapist,” MacLellan said.

He had known Matt and his mother for several years, and they agreed that the plan for the two to go on daily walks was a good idea.

“I grew up with a lot of older people in my life, like grandparents, great-aunts and -uncles, and I think it is a good experience for younger kids to spend time with older people because you learn a lot,” Luiso said. “You get a different perspective on life, and I think that’s important.”

Luiso also hopes Matt is gaining a healthy respect for his elders.

“I think he’s realizing that (MacLellan) wasn’t always an older guy. He lived a life, and he did all these cool things,” Luiso said. “… It’s like history — you’re talking to people who have seen different things that maybe you read about in history books, but you’re actually talking to a person who has been there.”

MacLellan says the walks and, more importantly, the friendship have been rewarding in many ways.

“I’m an old Boy Scout (who) helped the old lady across the street. Well, I’m the old lady now — he’s the Boy Scout,” MacLellan jokes.

Contact Ian Neligh at, and check for updates and breaking news.


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