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Trash route

Retired math professor keeps it clean during walks in North Lima

NORTH LIMA — For several decades, Ray Hurd has taught complex types of math, but now it’s quite simple to see that some of his recent accomplishments add up to kind acts and reaching beyond himself.

“I’ve been walking for a number of years and I used to walk around some of the less-traveled roads until they became busier than I liked. When I changed my pattern, I walked on sidewalks and would see trash thrown out and say to myself, ‘That doesn’t look good,'” he explained.

Instead of merely complaining about unsightly litter he encountered, Hurd, 90, chose to embark on a one-man campaign beginning four or five years ago to remove trash he saw with a combination plastic bag and grabber tool. About once per week, Hurd makes a 2-mile round-trip walk between his North Lima home off Market Street (state Route 7) and the Ohio Turnpike overpass while picking up trash he sees along the road, then discarding it in the nearest garbage bin he finds.

Hurd retired after having taught calculus, abstract algebra, geometry and math for educators. After earning his undergraduate degree from Ohio University in Athens and a doctorate degree from Ohio State University, he taught math for about six years at the high school level and 30 years as a Youngstown State University professor, then four years after that on a part-time basis.

One day last week, Hurd divided his time removing litter from both sides of Market Street while discussing how others’ appreciation for his efforts multiplied over time.

After leaving his residence that he’s shared with his wife, Kay, since 1960, it didn’t take Hurd long to spring into action. While on an abbreviated walk along portions of East South Range Road and Market during his most recent jaunt, he collected and bagged everything from candy and straw wrappers to fast-food containers to tissue paper. Hurd also removed a small strip of malleable rubber that fit into his plastic bag.

At one point, he passed the Dream Salon on Market Street, the owner of which wasn’t shy about expressing her gratitude recently for his efforts.

“They gave me a free haircut,” remembered Hurd, who said he gets rid of trash he sees on his walks year-round, weather permitting.

Typically, Hurd picks up paper products, plastic water bottles, soda and beer cans, small pieces of metal, cups, cigarette packs and straws, especially along the section of busy Market Street near a cluster of fast-food restaurants. Straw wrappers are the biggest items he sees, Hurd continued.

In some instances, Hurd decides whether to remove trash from people’s yards along Market, though that’s a judgment call, he said.

“I can go 15 or 20 feet into yards, but I really don’t go deep onto personal property,” he explained.

While on his rounds, the retired math professor seeks neither publicity nor fanfare. That doesn’t mean, however, that others are oblivious to the project he decided to take upon himself.

Residents have on occasion offered bottled water to Hurd, who has three children, eight grandchildren and eight great-grandchildren. Within the last few weeks, a 14- or 15-year-old boy gave him a small, stuffed Santa Claus doll as a token of his appreciation, Hurd recalled.

“He ran out of his house and said, ‘Thank you for picking up the trash,'” Hurd said, adding that his trash-removal efforts also have allowed him to get reacquainted with people he hadn’t seen in a long time. “I’ve gotten a lot of pleasant responses.”

Even in inclement weather — or when snow covers the ground and obscures whatever litter may be along the road — don’t think that Hurd has taken a hiatus. You might find him walking in Southern Park Mall and, on occasion, removing a piece of litter he sees on the floor that perhaps the cleaning personnel missed.

“I was kind of brought up with the idea that you have to pick up your trash,” he said.