Limpy the Turkey’s run ends on New Year’s Day

Famous Reading fowl dies, hit by car

FOR READING’S BELOVED WILD FOWL, New Year’s Day brought great tragedy.   

Limpy the Turkey had gained celebrity as he waddled around town for months, inspiring art, tee shirts, magnets, fundraisers in his name — and utter joy. Unlike most birds that earn a curse and a fist shake when they stop traffic, Limpy was photographed and videotaped widely, earning his place as the star of a 5,100 member Facebook group called “Limpy the Town Turkey.”  

But that all ended on Wednesday, when the bird was the victim of a hit-and-run on West Street. Police say little is known about how it happened, but they received a tip that a turkey was struck by a vehicle around 1:30 in the afternoon. “Officers responded and said it was unsafe to put him down,” said Lieutenant John McKenna, reading from the police log. The rest, to them, is a mystery, as the vehicle’s owner hasn’t come forward.  

Reading resident Kristen Lachance, who created the Facebook group, gave the most detailed account of the afternoon’s events in an interview. Lachance and bystanders say that several people were trying to get Limpy away from traffic on West Street. An unidentified man went to a nearby Market Basket to buy corn to trial on the road in hopes of baiting the turkey to safety.  

But his effort were for naught. Upon his return, Limpy had been struck, and severely injured. The man, who Limpy fans are hoping to identify, and hail as a hero, carried the turkey in his arms to the Montessori school parking lot and fed him corn for comfort until he died. Lachance and her family rushed to the scene with other Facebookers who had heard the news.

Amy Ropple, a middle school teacher in the district, called around and was able to take the bird to Waltham, where he has been cremated. “We wrapped him in a blanket and put him in the car,” Lachance said. Now $198 and a day later, all that remains of Limpy is a small box with his ashes emblazoned with “Limpy, our very special turkey.”  

“He was an ornery turkey. But he liked to talk. He was quite chatty with our mailman Brian,” said Ropple. “He would go up to cars and peck at them. We all joke, “Have you gone through the Limpy inspection?”

Limpy walks up one of Reading’s driveways. (Photo by April Rose Newman)

Residents are commenting on Facebook about their favorite memories of the town’s unofficial mascot. One poster says she thinks a bronze statue with Limpy’s ashes should be placed in the town center.  Joey Colomba heard about the turkey’s death while visiting family in Newton, and thought he’d make a tribute video for the bird. Originally Colomba wasn’t a huge Limpy fan. “I just thought it’s a turkey, who cares?” But after meeting Limpy in downtown reading, he was impressed by his following. “Everything is negative in the world, and we had one positive little turkey,” Colomba said. His video has been viewed over 2,000 times on YouTube.  

For Lachance, the creation of the Facebook page was about her children loving Limpy, and a relief from the seriousness of town goings on. “It was a nice break. Honestly that’s the thing that drew people in. It was light, and it was fun.”  

Limpy’s talents were originally discovered when people began noticing his battles with mail trucks and traffic this fall. Earlier videos from last spring show Limpy with that appears to be a fresh leg injury, most likely from a car. From there, the turkey earned his name, walking slowly around town with a distinctive limp.

As Thanksgiving approached, even Governor Charlie Baker’s office weighed inLimpy the Turkey has extensive experience as a member of his local wild fowl community, which makes him well qualified for a pardon,” Maura Driscoll, Baker’s deputy press secretary, told The Boston Globe. “Governor Baker is pleased to submit his name for consideration.” 

During the short run of his celebrity, LaChance and others fundraised for the Reading Food Pantry by selling merchandise with his likeness, designed by Lianne Cortese Stoddard. Sales of over $1,000 went to the pantry during the holidays. Local businesses outright cut checks to the food shelf in Limpy’s honor– one from a fitness business for $300. 

Now LaChance and fellow townie Keri Goldman created a fundraising page in the famous bird’s name for the food pantry. There has been talk about creating a children’s book about Limpy. Ropple’s students, among others in the area, have drawn likenesses of him, and would be featured in the project. “We could put that money toward the Audubon Society of a wildlife foundation for him,” said Lachance.  

Ropple said that she has at least 40 drawings of the bird, and that students really responded when she asked them to draw what they think Limpy means to the community,  and how he makes the most of being a bird with a disability.

Whether it’s the memory of the turkey hanging out with the neighborhood mailman, or flying high to the top of the fire station, the bird lives on. “Rest easy Limpy,” reads the fundraising page.  

On who killed the bird, no one knows. “It’s sad someone didn’t stop and stick around after the hitting happened. It’s kind of callous to leave an animal half dead,” said Ropple.

Meet the Author

Sarah Betancourt

Reporter, CommonWealth

About Sarah Betancourt

Sarah Betancourt is a bilingual journalist reporting across New England. Prior to joining Commonwealth, Sarah was a reporter for The Associated Press in Boston, and a correspondent with The Boston Globe and The Guardian. She has written about immigration, social justice, and health policy for outlets like NBC, The Boston Institute for Nonprofit Journalism, and the New York Law Journal. Sarah has reported stories such as a national look at teacher shortages, how databases are used by police departments to procure information on immigrants, and uncovered the spread of an infectious disease in children at a family detention center. She has covered the State House, local and national politics, crime and general assignment.

Sarah received a 2018 Investigative Reporters and Editors Award for her role in the ProPublica/NPR story, “They Got Hurt at Work and Then They Got Deported,” which explored how Florida employers and insurance companies were getting out of paying workers compensation benefits by using a state law to ensure injured undocumented workers were arrested or deported. Sarah attended Emerson College for a Bachelor’s Degree in Political Communication, and Columbia University for a fellowship and Master’s degree with the Stabile Center for Investigative Journalism.

About Sarah Betancourt

Sarah Betancourt is a bilingual journalist reporting across New England. Prior to joining Commonwealth, Sarah was a reporter for The Associated Press in Boston, and a correspondent with The Boston Globe and The Guardian. She has written about immigration, social justice, and health policy for outlets like NBC, The Boston Institute for Nonprofit Journalism, and the New York Law Journal. Sarah has reported stories such as a national look at teacher shortages, how databases are used by police departments to procure information on immigrants, and uncovered the spread of an infectious disease in children at a family detention center. She has covered the State House, local and national politics, crime and general assignment.

Sarah received a 2018 Investigative Reporters and Editors Award for her role in the ProPublica/NPR story, “They Got Hurt at Work and Then They Got Deported,” which explored how Florida employers and insurance companies were getting out of paying workers compensation benefits by using a state law to ensure injured undocumented workers were arrested or deported. Sarah attended Emerson College for a Bachelor’s Degree in Political Communication, and Columbia University for a fellowship and Master’s degree with the Stabile Center for Investigative Journalism.

Limpy rides a postal truck. (Video by of Brooke Choate Sakraida)