STRATFORD, N.J. - For nearly 50 years, a Stratford, New Jersey man has set out on a walk every day, turning friends into family with every step.
Joe Motolla has called Stratford his home since 1977, and he’s known for his long, daily walks around town.
His community-building exercise will soon come to an end, though, as Joe’s family is selling their family home and moving. But, before the move, Joe’s kids planned a surprise for him.
Andrew Motolla, Joe’s son, printed the typical walking route and handed it out to people around town, inviting the neighborhood to pop out and join Joe on his final walk around Stratford on Tuesday.
"Joe goes out of his way to seek you out, to talk to you, to share a story, or just to hear how you’re doing," said a close neighbor, Matt Sheehan. "He’s always wishing you well and that really means a lot. He knows my kids knows my parents knows my entire family."
The 74-year-old's mile and a half route takes long to complete as he makes several stops along the way to chat with neighbors. So, for Joe, to see all those familiar faces come out to join him on his walk was a heartwarming experience.
"It’s just a blessing that so many people in Stafford cared enough to take time from their busy, hectic schedules to go on this journey with me," said Joe.
Neighbors describe the way Joe communicates with people as old school. Some even say that the only thing Joe may like better than getting to know his neighbors is getting to know their four-legged friends.
"Jeff with his Corgis, I visit and talk to them. Then there’s Linda and Miss Grace Armstrong who both have dogs," Joe said as he recalled some of the furry friends that he's made on his journeys.
Joe is moving to North Jersey to live with his daughter, son-in-law, and grandkids. He says he’s excited to meet new people, but he still has plans to come back home and visit.
"No matter what, he gives his best effort. Just kindness and being nice to your fellow human," said Joe's son, Andrew.