"It's just me, my idea of a responsible person," Steve Simoff says of walking to hold down his $9 hourly overnight job

By Andrea Billups
Updated March 04, 2015 01:05 PM

A southern Iowa casino janitor makes a five-to-six-hour-long walk to work each day, a part of his commitment to staying employed at his $9 hourly job and taking care of his wife and adopted grandson.

“When you’ve got a family and you’ve got a job, you’ve got to be able to support your family and keep your job. The two most important things I can think of,” Steve Simoff said humbly of his earnest trek along the interstate, where he’s well-known to state troopers and other drivers who occasionally give him a lift, according to the Des Moines Register.

Simoff, 61, wears out a pair of shoes about every two months and battles a case of osteoarthritis in his left knee. And he fuels his journey to the Lakeside Hotel Casino in Osceola, about 35 miles away, with plenty of coffee and some chewing tobacco, noting that even calf-deep snow is no deterrent for him getting there in time for his overnight shift, which begins at 11 p.m. To make it, he usually leaves home around 3:30 p.m.

Once there, he’s mostly on his feet, except for during lunch and a couple of breaks.

“It’s just me,” he told the Register of persisting on the long trek. “My idea of a responsible person. I’m not saying it’s for everyone.”

Sometimes people who recognize him pick him up, but he said hitchhiking with strangers is off the table. About three days a week, he’ll catch a ride with locals, but on the weekends, finding that ride – “it’s a bear cat.” Often, a co-worker gives him a ride back home, and occasionally, police patrol officers who know him well also step in to help.

They call him well-known and harmless. “There’s no danger about him or anything,” Decatur County Sheriff Herbert Muir told the Register. “He’s personable. He’s not been in trouble. He just walks.”

Simoff said he lives in faraway Davis City because of the affordable $400 monthly rent on the basement apartment that he shares with his wife and a grandson they adopted, who is now 22. His wife hasn’t worked since a stroke nine years ago and a pair of heart attacks in 2010 that left her disabled, he said.

He now owns a 2002 van with about 105,000 miles after not having a vehicle for years, but he said gas money is expensive on his income.

Simoff’s inspiring story of making do comes on the heels of a similar walk-to-work tale in Detroit, where $10-hourly factory worker James Robertson, 56, earned $350,000 on a GoFundMe site and a new Ford Taurus from a local dealer after word of his arduous walk to his job in the suburbs went viral.