ITHACA, N.Y. — When more than 200 runners set off for the 10th Annual Peter De Mott Peace Trot this weekend, they’ll be following in the footsteps of someone who’s hard to keep up with. De Mott, who passed away in 2009, was a tireless anti-war activist, runner, husband, father and neighbor throughout his years in Ithaca. The trot is a tribute to his local legacy and a fundraiser for the Ithaca Catholic Workers.
Ellen Grady, De Mott’s wife of 25 years, said running was a way for De Mott to maintain his inner peace while working for global peace. De Mott, who served as an air traffic controller during the Vietnam War, carried around guilt for his participation in the military, Grady said.
“The rest of his life was dedicated to figuring out how do I disengage from that: how do I live in a way that isn’t about a consumerist lifestyle, how do I live in a way that helps uplift other human beings?” Grady said. Running was his way of staying physically and mentally healthy while continuing to work for peace and justice, she said.
Tom Joyce often ran at De Mott’s side. Joyce met De Mott through anti-war actions in the 1980s, when De Mott was part of the Jonah House in Baltimore and moving between courtrooms and jail cells as a participant in Plowshares anti-nuclear actions. By the early 1990s, both had landed in Ithaca with their families, where De Mott was a founding member of the local Catholic Workers group.
“We’d both been involved in anti-war activism our whole lives, yet that’s not who we are completely,” Joyce said. He described De Mott as a devoted father to his four daughters and an enthusiastic runner who took his health seriously. “We don’t do peace work to the exclusion of everything in our lives,” he said.
Joyce was one of the friends who approached Grady with the idea of starting a memorial run after De Mott’s sudden death 10 years ago. The event was conceived as a way of honoring all the different facets of De Mott’s life, Joyce said: his love of running and commitment to protecting the environment, his fellowship with neighbors, and the hospitality ministry of the Catholic Workers.
Proceeds from the event fund the Peter De Mott Catholic Worker House, the home base from which local members practice the “works of mercy,” including offering hospitality in the form of emergency shelter, food and clothing.
Grady emphasized that all are welcome to participate in the Trot, regardless of ability to pay or run. “Whatever you’re able to do, come and join us,” Grady said, echoing the event signs that welcome all to run, trot, walk, mosey, stroll, roll or crawl. “The spirit is a welcoming spirit. I think that’s what he wanted to see in the world, it’s a little slice of that.”
The Trot will begin at 9 a.m. Sunday, June 16 at Cass Park and includes both a timed 5k race and a 1-mile fun run. Registration will open on-site at 7:30 a.m. or can be completed online. T-shirts, food and prizes will be given out during the event, and donations are welcome but not required to participate.