Ernest “Ernie” Andrus, 92, of California, jogged his way through Louisiana on Dec. 5 and was joined by two members of the No Chumps Running Club of Zachary.
Jana Ragsdale and Susan Varnadore, a clerk at Northwestern Elementary School, and several other runners joined Andrus on his run at a location in Baton Rouge. The group then proceeded to a location in Denham Springs, running nearly 6 miles together.
Andrus, who is running coast to coast to raise money for the LST 325 Ship Memorial, kept a steady pace with the group while sharing tales of growing up in Los Angeles and serving in the Navy.
Andrus began his “Super Senior Coast to Coast Run” by touching the Pacific Ocean near San Diego on Oct. 7, 2013, and will end his effort by touching the Atlantic Ocean near Brunswick, Georgia, in about three years.
The LST (Landing Ship, Tank) is an amphibious vessel designed to land battle-ready tanks, troops and supplies directly onto enemy shores. During World War II, while the LST-325 was in the service of the Greek Navy, it was acquired by the USS LST Ship Memorial Inc.
In 2000, the ship attracted considerable attention when a veteran crew brought it on a 6,500-mile journey from the Greek island of Crete to Mobile, Alabama. Andrus was a member of that crew.
He said that 1,051 LST ships were built during WWII, and the 325 LST is the only remaining ship that has been fully restored and operational.
“Initially, plans were to return the ship to Normandy for a D-Day memorial service at the same location it landed on Omaha Beach 70 years prior, but the cost of taking the ship across the Atlantic and back is tremendous,” said Andrus. “Perhaps we can raise enough money for the D-Day memorial in 2019.”
As of Oct. 9, Andrus has completed 1,819 miles in 664 hours, 13 minutes and 29 seconds. His average pace is about 21:55 per mile, and he clocks about 18.25 miles by running three days a week.