How A Wayzata Advertising Executive Spent Summers As A ‘Hobo’

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — A Twin Cities family is remembering a man who had his feet firmly planted in two worlds.

Todd Waters was an award-winning advertising executive, but he was also a “hobo” who spent his summers hopping freight trains and sleeping in box cars. In this week’s Life Story, Angela Davis explains how Todd was able to move back and forth between his two passions.

Waters had a lot to be proud of: A comfortable home in Wayzata, a wife who was also his business partner at their advertising agency and two kids who grew up to have successful careers. Todd also had a second family: The men and women he befriended as he roamed the country on freight trains.

todd waters hobo How A Wayzata Advertising Executive Spent Summers As A Hobo

Todd Waters living his life on the trains (credit: Dori Molitor)

“He would take off every year, he traveled 40 years. Every single summer. It would be anywhere from four weeks to eight weeks,” Dori Molitor, Todd’s wife, said.

Dori says each summer, Todd would grab a cherished coat and a special bag, leave his cash, credit cards and cell phone behind and head for the railyards to hop on a train.

“I think what he most enjoyed was the freedom, riding on the freight trains and traveling that way. He always said ‘You can’t be late because there is no place you need to be. You can’t get lost because you have nowhere to,'” Molitor said.

Dori and Todd met in the late 70s when they were coworkers.

todd waters hobo How A Wayzata Advertising Executive Spent Summers As A Hobo

Todd Waters living his life on the trains (credit: Dori Molitor)

“In the advertising world, we all talk about thinking outside the box, you gotta think outside the box. Todd was nowhere near the box. He had all these crazy, outrageous ideas,” Molitor said.

In the 1980s, Todd convinced his coworker to give his hobo travels a try. Initially, he was apprehensive.

“I don’t know if I’m gonna like this. It took about three hours, we were southbound along the Mississippi River, the sun was setting and I thought… this was pretty much fun,” Steve Bakke, Todd’s friend, said.

“Adman” as he was known among hobos, was a skilled photographer. He documented the experiences that shaped his philosophy on life.

“Be fearless, be brave, live life to its fullest,” Molitor said.

Todd Waters was 69 years old when he died on July 7. It’s important to note: Jumping onto trains and riding in box cars is considered trespassing. It’s also very dangerous.

More from Angela Davis
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