Photo Gallery | 49th annual Mount Greylock Ramble
ADAMS — As sure as the leaves will turn orange each October, Thomas Harty would be the oldest hiker to summit Mount Greylock every Columbus Day weekend.
But just a week before making his annual trek up the Cheshire Harbor Trail, the 95-year-old Franklin County man was killed during a home invasion.
In his place, his granddaughter made the trip from Manchester, N.H., to hike the annual Greylock Ramble.
"We won't have closure for a while, so this was just one way for me to begin to heal," said Laura Harty, who hiked the trail alone with her dog, Stella. The rest of the family was writing Harty's obituary.
The title of "oldest" to achieve a physical feat isn't easy to maintain, but Thomas Harty climbed Greylock year after year.
"He'd take his time," Laura said, "but he just kept going."
Laura, who said she lived with her grandfather for a short while, said he was up early every morning for a two-mile walk — at the age of 90. In addition to Mount Greylock, he also frequented the Grand Canyon.
"He was in better shape than me," said Laura, who as a first-time Rambler acknowledged the hike was a bit more difficult than she had anticipated.
But last week, the family received a call it never expected. Thomas Harty had been killed during an invasion of the home of he and his wife, Joanna Fisher, who was hospitalized, according to the Greenfield Recorder.
The Northwestern District Attorney's office announced early on Monday that two suspects in the killing — Joshua Hart, 23, and Brittany Smith, 27 — were arrested in Virginia and will be arraigned on fugitive from justice charges. They are expected to face charges of murder, attempted murder, home invasion, armed robbery, larceny and conspiracy.
Gene Cuomo, of Fitzwilliam, N.H. and Kim Morris, of Lanesborough, met the elder Harty on the trail and became friends of his, as many did. On Monday, they brought a picture of Harty hiking to the event's organizers in his honor.
"We were so looking forward to seeing him this year," said Myra Wilk, a volunteer with ProAdams and one of the event's organizers.
The 2016 Ramble was one Harty surely would have enjoyed.
The sun shone throughout the day and, though a cold wind blustered at the summit making selfie-taking a little less than comfortable, more than 700 hikers had completed the climb before noon, according to Wilk. By the end of the day they had handed out about 1,700 completion certificates.
"It was a great day," Wilk said. "ProAdams was very happy to do this event this year."
This was the first year that the ProAdams group has organized the Ramble, following the dissolution of the Adams Events Planning Committee. Thankfully, the weather cooperated and the trail was dry.
"When we came up here this morning there had to be 30 mph winds," Wilk said. "It's lightened up a little."
The peak was extra magical this year in honor of Harry Potter author J.K. Rowling's recent decision to name Mount Greylock as the home of a fictional wizarding school, Ilvermorny.
Hikers were invited to sign the "Ilvermorny Guest Registry" for the chance to win a handmade wand, a wizarding walking staff, or a traditional witch's broom.
Amanda Zepka, one of many local residents volunteering to capitalize on the attention Rowling has shined on Mount Greylock, poured butterbeer samples to those who reached the summit and estimated that between 300 and 400 hikers had signed into the registry.
"It just seemed like an opportunity to do something special," Zepka said.
Williamstown resident Dylan Stafford made the journey to the summit out of "a desire to get over a cold, hurt my knee, and see if I can find the secret entrance to Ilvermorny," he joked. Wilk stressed that the event was able to go off smoothly because of the work of many volunteers, both in ProAdams and the organizations that contribute to the event.
"It takes a lot of coordination," she said.
The first hiker up the mountain, Henry Snizek, had reached the peak at about 5:30 a.m. and was waiting when volunteers arrived in the morning.
The oldest hiker this year, at 87, was North Adams resident Carolyn Brazeau; the youngest to walk the whole journey was Katy Day-Giarolo, just 21/2.
It appeared that a couple from England would be crowned as the hikers who came the furthest until Mary Dewit and Marc Shoemaker, from the Netherlands, reached the top.
Special recognition was also given to Cliff and Kathy Johnson of Missouri, who drove to Adams specifically for the Ramble.
Contact Adam Shanks at 413-496-6376.