The first place that Amanda Wade scattered her father’s ashes was South Africa. Jerald L. McCoy had died at 73 from Alzheimer’s less than a month earlier, and Wade and her husband, Ed, and twin daughters, Becca and Betsy, had plans to go on a humanitarian trip to the African country during the Thanksgiving school break. If ever there was a time or a place to begin her quest, this was as good as any.
And so one day during the trip they came to Boulders Beach, the southernmost tip of the country, where tourists flock to see an endangered penguin colony and two of Earth’s oceans collide, and tossed some of McCoy’s ashes into the wind.
A few months later, they did the same in Italy. A month later, they did it again in California.
Wade and her family have since spread her father’s ashes in 49 places around the world, an ongoing memorial inspired by McCoy’s own jet-setting ways. On Tuesday, the Forsyth County family embarked on a year-long trip through Australia and Southeast Asia and Egypt and Antarctica that they are chronicling on Facebook and Instagram. By the end, McCoy’s ashes will have been spread in 100 different places in dozens of countries covering every continent.
“We’re taking dad everywhere cool we go,” Wade said.
McCoy was born Jan. 9, 1943, in Columbus, Ind. He was on the varsity swim team in high school and attended West Point for a year before moving back to Indiana to attend Valparaiso University, where he met Amanda’s mom.
McCoy was an avid reader, and later in life, he read the book “Cashing in on the American Dream: How to Retire at 35,” by Paul Terhorst. The book altered McCoy’s trajectory, Wade said. He lived cheaply and retired at 49. He then set out to see the world, and he did, eventually traveling to all 50 states and seven continents.
McCoy’s travels inspired a book idea of his own: 100 places to scatter my ashes.
Wade implored him to write it. It became a common note in her Father’s Day cards to him.
“I’d say, ‘Happy Father’s Day! Write the damn book!’” Wade said.
McCoy, though, was diagnosed with early-onset Alzheimer’s disease at 63. He died 10 years later, on Oct. 30, 2016, having never written the book.
And so it became obvious to Wade: she would write the book for her dad, in her own way. She was used to traveling between family trips and her job in technology sales, and she didn’t want to wait to travel the world until later in life. She would spread his ashes in 100 different places.
They have been on the journey to do so ever since. They have scattered McCoy’s ashes on The Colosseum in Rome and at Yosemite National Park in California, on Angkor Wat in Cambodia and in the headwaters of the Mississippi River. They’ve covered some sentimental locations, like West Point, where McCoy spent his first year out of high school, and the Appalachian Trail, where Wade and McCoy hiked together so many times.
For Wade and her family, the journey has been a way to create new memories with “papaw,” as her daughters called McCoy.
Like the time Wade was stopped going through security at the airport with his ashes.
“Papaw got me in trouble,” Wade said.
Or those early tosses of McCoy’s ashes into the wind that blew right back.
“We’re making a lot of memories with our kids and other family members even though my dad has passed,” Wade said.
Wade and her family have committed to finishing the journey. They have sold their home and possessions and left jobs and school, and now they’re off to New Zealand to begin the final leg. It will end with a cruise to Antarctica in January of 2020.
The trip wasn’t necessarily planned for the purpose of completing Wade’s goal, but at this point, they wouldn’t want it any other way.
“Taking him with us just feels right,” Wade said.