The man who started America's Greatest Heart Run and Walk in Utica has died. Larry Lewicki was 88.

Lewicki's own personal weight loss story, and a run from Barneveld, NY to the former WIBX studios in Whitestown nearly 5 decades ago sparked what is today a signature event drawing 6,000 to 9,000 runners and walkers annually in Utica.

As noted in an article about his passing by the Utica Observer Dispatch:

Lewicki was 43 years old and overweight when he began attending a health and fitness class conducted by the American Heart Association at the local elementary school near his Barneveld home back in the 1970s. By the time he finished, he had dropped about 90 pounds, and in February 1974 he decided to show his gratitude to the Heart Association by running five miles — collecting $1 each from his co-workers at Jay-K Lumber — to donate for their programs. He raised $65.

The following year, Lewicki got four of his running buddies to join him and they ran from Barneveld to the WIBX radio station — then located on Clark Mills Road in Whitestown. They raised $274.

Earlier this month, WIBX hosted its 48th annual Heart Radiothon while the run/walk event Lewicki innocently launched celebrated it's 45th year.

Lewicki died on March 19, 2019. His obituary notes he was a US veteran, serving in the Air Force during the Korean Conflict. He worked for 50 years at Jay-K Lumber, retiring in 2015. A memorial is behind held at the Virginia Veteran's Cemetary in Amerlia, VA on April 15.