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Upper Stewiacke couple serve community in unique way


Francis Blaikie and her husband Roy Graham display aluminum sticks used to pick up highway debris.

When it comes to making their community a better place to live, Roy Graham and his wife Francis 'Fran' Blaikie aren't shy about walking the walk.

In fact, they can be found walking the roads in Upper Stewiacke nearly every day picking up debris and garbage.

Fran shared how the unique venture began.

"We started walking for exercise more than five years ago," she explained. "I would find a walk very boring. Walking the Otterbrook Road is pretty uneventful unless a coyote comes chomping at your behind.

"We noticed garbage laying beside the road, so I said to Roy, 'we're out here walking. Let's pick up the garbage.' That's how it started."

That was more than five years ago. Today, the couple each carry a grocery bag during their walks.

"Fran always gets a bag full of garbage which sometimes includes hundreds of cigarette butts," Roy said. "I gather the bottles and cans. Today I got 25 cans and three bottles."

Fran, 65, and Roy, 67, spread their walks out over five different routes. Besides the Otterbrook Road, they hike from the Upper Stewiacke Co-op along Highway 289 for three kilometers towards Lansdowne and walk the same highway from the Co-op towards Brookfield. The other two routes are along the southside of the river and along Stewart Hill leading towards Upper Musquodoboit.

"We always go three kilometers," said Roy. "With these five different routes we cover 15 kilometers in total every five days. We walk and pick up garbage every day of the week just as long the weather isn't bad. When we stop and look around and see that our community is clean it makes for a good feeling."

And though they did not expect it, people thank them both verbally and by cards through the mail.

"Numerous vehicles toot their horns in a friendly way," said Roy. "A number of cars stop and the drivers convey their warm feelings about what we are doing. There are people out there who, like us, care about the look of the countryside."

Local councillor Mike Cooper even took notice.

"Mike was probably aware that starting out we used a 30-inch stick with a nail in it to pick up garbage," said Fran. "He was good enough recently to get us new aluminum sticks. They have a lever on the handle and a clasp or suction grip on the bottom. We find them very helpful."

Fran said that some people will never understand her and Roy's passion for what they are doing.

"No one in their right mind would spend so much time picking up other people's garbage, cans and bottles," she commented. "That's the way some see it and although a few people make fun of our project, this doesn't bother Roy and I one bit. We don't have to do this for financial reasons. We're doing it because we care for our community.

"We're both getting enjoyment and exercise by walking. Picking up the garbage kind of gives us a cause. It makes it worthwhile."

Not to mention the odd tumble.

"We had quite a laugh when Fran was leaning down over a 10-foot bank to pick up garbage," Roy recounted. "I was trying to help her but her hand slipped off my stick and she tumbled down into the ditch."

Fran said that she was not hurt but had to crawl on all fours to get back up to pavement level.

"When we got back to Upper Stewiacke a man told me he saw an old gray-haired woman up the road crawling around a ditch," she said.

Area residents appreciate the clean-up work.

"I admire Roy and Fran," said South Branch dairy farmer John Veenhuis. "They deserve a lot of credit for continuously picking up garbage along our highways thrown out by passing motorists. They should be rewarded or at least recognized for the service they are doing."

Added Wanda Swallow, who ran the post office in Upper Stewiacke for many years:

"I find it amazing how Roy and Fran have taken it upon themselves to try and keep the countryside clean. You see them picking up debris at all hours of the day, during the morning and late afternoon. They walk miles along the highway cleaning up litter."

TAGLINE: Lyle Carter's column about the people of Colchester County appears every Tuesday in the Truro Daily News. If you've got an idea for a story, contact Lyle at 673-2857.


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