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Friends of Walking Man hold memorial walk in Silver Lake

July 25, 2010 |  7:40 pm

Most residents of Silver Lake have encountered Marc Abrams on his daily walkabout, shirtless, in brightly colored running shorts, maneuvering the busy streets and hillsides without mishap as his gaze and attention stayed fixed on his morning newspaper.

In this tight-knit community west of downtown, Abrams was as much a feature of the landscape as the reservoir. Many residents said they were shocked to learn he had died Wednesday. Police believe he may have committed suicide.

On Sunday, more than 400 of his friends and acquaintances walked for five miles along one of his favorite routes to honor Abrams, 58, a physician nicknamed the “Walking Man.”

At the time of his death, Abrams was being investigated in connection with his treatment of a 25-year-old patient who overdosed on prescription drugs, according to a Times report. The report cited law enforcement authorities who requested anonymity because they were not authorized to speak publicly about the case.

But the remembrances of those who gathered at the Silver Lake Recreation Center on Sunday were not clouded by accusations of alleged misconduct. Many said they didn’t believe the report. They instead recalled a man who liked boxing and music and was always willing to offer a helping hand.

“He was an exceptionally giving guy,” said Kevin E. West, who had known Abrams for six years and frequently joined him on walks. “He wanted to help patients who were not as fortunate as others, people who had less.”

Cheri Raney said she had known Abrams for years and that he embraced the diversity of Silver Lake. “Whether you were thin or fat, young or old, no matter what color you are, he waved and spoke to you and he smiled,” she said. “He made people around this lake smile at each other.”

Raney’s friend Bud Slade, 73, a former Silver Lake resident, traveled from Nevada for the event and removed his shirt during the walk as a testament to Abrams. “He would stop and say hello and, looking at my abs, tell me I should walk longer,” Slade said, laughing.

The participants walked near the reservoir, through the hilly neighborhoods and along Sunset Boulevard, passing a mural dedicated to Abrams that depicts him near bygone Los Angeles landmarks such as the Brown Derby restaurant, the old Fox Studios and Schwab’s drugstore.

Abrams’ autopsy is pending, and there is no official cause of death, according to the Los Angeles County coroner’s office.

City Councilman Tom LaBonge, who lived near Abrams and joined part of the walk, said the city will consider erecting a memorial to Abrams’ passion for walking. Addressing the investigation, LaBonge said: “We don’t know what this is about yet, and it’s a shock to people. Whatever the truth is, it’s one page out of 1,000 pages in this man’s life.”

--Carla Rivera

Photo: Walkers remember Marc Abrams with a five-mile hike in Silver Lake. Credit: Lawrence K. Ho / Los Angeles Times