Todd Waters’ mission was to make people ‘homesick for their freedom’

Todd Waters, 69, has died, or, as hoboes say, “he caught the Westbound.” Waters was a “hobo” who proudly noted in 2012 that he’s been arrested about 70 times jumping railroad cars out of St. Paul for parts unknown and known. He was also a millionaire.

He caught his first freight train out of Cheyenne in 1964 when he was a Wayzata High School student.

“My life went south after my wife ran off with a bartender to Arizona. I sold everything I owned and hit the ‘first thing smokin’, running away, then after a year or so, drifting where ever I damned well pleased. I got off ‘the road’ after a few years to settle down,” he wrote on Hobo Times. “That lasted about three weeks. I was homesick for ‘the road’. I returned to ‘the road’. That lasted a few months until I got homesick for settled society. That lasted until I got homesick for the road again.”

Somewhere along the line, he got in the advertising business, made a lot of money, and lived in a million-dollar home on Lake Minnetonka.

His obit appeared today in the Star Tribune:

Todd Waters (AKA Adman) caught a westbound train to freedom on July 7, 2017. Todd was embraced by his rail riding, dumpster diving hobo family as their King in 2004, and by his Fortune 500 clients for brilliant and audacious marketing campaigns that earned him fame, wealth and nine “Best in World” honors. He was kind, soft spoken, courageous and wickedly funny an adventurer fiercely loyal to his family, his legion of wildly diverse friends, and to all humankind. His motto was “Everyone Matters.”

Throughout his life as a rambling hobo, a skydiver who feared heights, an anti-war leader in college, a political operative who helped elect two congressmen, and a world class advertising executive, Todd was always on a quest for freedom. His soul was driven to create, move, explore and surprise with the unexpected, and he did nothing timidly. “Anything worth doing,” he would say, “is worth overdoing.” Some people eat an ice cream cone. Todd ate the whole gallon. “Eat dessert first,” he advised, “and you’ll always have room for it.”

Todd’s childhood friend, Bill Martin, once asked him why he would leave the comfort and security of his family and his Lake Minnetonka home every summer for 40 years to live the hobo life, with no money and no phone, exposing himself to danger, dodging the law and sleeping out in the elements. He replied, “It’s the freedom I feel.” The more risks he took, and the less he had in his pack, the more he was free to experience.

While Todd rubbed shoulders with the wealthy, prominent and powerful, the people he probably respected most for their guts and straightforwardness were hobos. So before hiring account executives for his agencies Waters Advertising, Waters & Company and WatersMolitor, Inc. he sometimes asked candidates to hit the streets and panhandle. He insisted that the people he worked with be brave, and know how to close a sale.

Make no mistake the hobos never viewed Todd as some fly by night, cake eating, Lake Minnetonka phony. To them, he was a true brother, leader and Railroad Security dodger whose advocacy helped sustain the annual Hobo Convention in Britt, Iowa, along with Britt’s famed Hobo Museum and the Hobo Cemetery. Hobos never retire, but Todd took his last train ride to Britt in 2012 and got arrested.

On his home writing table, Todd carved a saying: “Look,” said God, “I wanted you the way you are and no different. You were a wanderer in my name and wherever you went you brought the settled folk a little homesickness for freedom.”

Todd Waters (AKA Adman) was born in Keokuk, Iowa on October 8, 1947 and caught The Westbound on July 7, 2017. He graduated from Wayzata High School and St. Cloud State University.

Early in 1976, a freight train hit Todd squarely in the heart when he met young Dori Molitor. He was smitten, knocked off his feet and totally bewildered by a love that lasted through five years of dating, 16 successful years as business partners and 37 ridiculously happy years of marriage. Along the way came their daughter, Alexandra, and son, Andrew, who have made them both incredibly proud.

Todd is also survived by his sisters, Jeanne (Waters) Elizer and Lynn (Waters) Bolyard and five nieces and nephews. He is joined in death by his father, Vern Waters, and his mother, Winona (Mitchell) Waters.

A celebration of Todd’s remarkable life will be held on Friday, July 14, 2017 at his Lake Minnetonka home at 3061 Casco Point Road, Wayzata Minnesota 55391. The viewing will be at 10:00 a.m. followed by an outdoor service at 11:00 a.m. and get together by the lake from noon until 3:00 p.m. Come early for the best street parking. Those wishing to send memorials should make checks out to “Britt Hobo Days” and send to Dori. She will forward them as a mark of Todd’s continuing support for his brother hobos. David Lee Funeral Home Wayzata 952-473-5577

(h/t: Sara Meyer)

Related: Parting thoughts: King of the hobos catches the westbound (MPR News)