ALBANY -- Her husband jokingly calls her the "Patron Saint of Yard Trash and Lost Dogs," but most Northwest Doublegate residents know Perley Boucher's wife, Judy, by her sun visors, sun glasses and her self-proclaimed "addiction" to picking up random garbage during her early-morning walk around the neighborhood.
Boucher, 64, has been a resident of the Doublegate community for more than 21 years and said she has walked her 4-mile daily route around the neighborhood for almost as long as she has lived in the subdivision.
She said after she and her husband retired from Procter & Gamble she was able to dedicate herself to her morning routine more faithfully.
"When I was working, I started out walking our dogs at night," she said. "After our dogs passed away and I was retired, I decided I would start walking in the mornings."
Boucher said she began her habit of picking up litter one day after she noticed a few discarded nails on the side of the road while waiting to cross the street on one of her walks.
"Sometimes it takes quite a while for the traffic to ease. I was waiting and I noticed these nails in the road," she explained. "I thought, 'It would be my luck that I would be the one to run over one of these in my car,' so I just picked them up and threw them away when I came to the nearest garbage bin."
Boucher said after that day she began to make it a habit of picking up some of the random bits of garbage she found along her walks.
"It's very addictive," she laughed. "Some people might call it obsessive/compulsive."
Over a period of time, Boucher began to carry recycled plastic shopping bags around with her to put the garbage that she collected in, and after her back began to trouble her she invested in a retractable trash grabber.
"I've been through a few of these since I first got one," she said of the grabbers.
Boucher said her neighbors started noticing her carrying around plastic bags and offered her the use of their garbage bins to deposit the trash she collected.
"I now have my little drop points along the way," she said. "There are some really nice people in this community."
Boucher has experienced many times the kindness of her neighbors and passersby.
She said she will always remember the times when her arms were full of plastic bags filled with trash and motorists would stop and offer to carry them in their cars for her.
Another time, Boucher said she was caught in a downpour and someone stopped and gave her a ride back to her home.
"My back went out one time -- that was before I got the yard grabber -- and several people stopped and helped me into their car and drove me home," she said.
In addition to helping to keep her neighborhood clean, Boucher has also lent a hand to her neighbors.
"I have picked up trash cans where dogs have knocked them over and trash has been everywhere and have cleaned it up and put it back," she said. "Who wants to come home to that?"
Boucher has also picked up her neighbors' mail that had fallen out of their mailbox and replaced it where it belongs, in addition to escorting numerous lost dogs home to their owners.
After an emotional incident during one of her walks four years ago, Boucher said she decided to invest in a cell phone for emergencies.
"I went home that day and told my husband that I was getting a cell phone," she said.
After being stopped for directions numerous times by delivery trucks and work crews, Boucher started carrying copies of a map of Doublegate with her.
Boucher said it has remained important to her that she does her acts of kindness anonymously.
"I am doing this because I want to do it and because I like it," she said. "I do these things, and my neighbors don't even know who did it or that anything was ever wrong like their trash can was tipped over."
Boucher said she has called about bent signs, car accidents, gas leaks and numerous other things she has noticed along her route.
Among the most common bits of trash Boucher said she finds along her route are fast-food containers.
"I have seen every type of fast-food container," she said. "I don't understand it."
Cigarette butts, soda and beer cans and bottles, cell phones and keys are also among the many items she has picked up.
"The most mysterious thing I have picked up and thrown away was a chocolate sheet cake that had one tire track through it," she said. "It was fresh so I guess someone must have forgot they had it on top of their car and accidentally ran it over when they left."
Boucher said, luckily, the day she found the cake was a Monday, which is Doublegate's trash pick-up day, and she was able to deposit the cake into a nearby garbage bin.
The walker said she picks up trash because it makes her feel like she is accomplishing something.
"I so appreciate people who have respect for themselves and their community," she said. "If people were more conscious of what they throw out of their vehicles then we wouldn't have a problem like litter. Albany is such a pretty town, and it makes me sad to go down Westover and see all the trash on the side of the road."
Boucher will be moving with her husband to her hometown of Lincoln, Neb., next week where she vows to continue her environmentally friendly "addiction".
Charles Gillespie of the Northwest Doublegate Neighborhood Watch group said he received a request from Boucher to allow her to include a goodbye letter in his Neighborhood Watch publication to her community before she moved.
"I think she's one of the better volunteers in the community," Gillespie said of Boucher. "She does it selflessly and without praise."
Boucher said it was important to her to say goodbye to her neighbors before she left.
"When I lived in Cincinnati 35 years ago, I used to see this woman jogging every day when I drove home from work, and then one day I didn't see her anymore," she said. "I always wondered what happened to her, and I didn't want anyone to wonder about that with me. It was the only way I had to say goodbye to everyone."
Boucher said she will miss her time in the Doublegate community and the waves and smiles of her neighbors on her walks.
"It is a great community with wonderful people," she said. "I'm going to miss it."
Boucher said she plans to have her last walk in her neighborhood of 21 years on Feb. 26 if the weather is nice.
"It's a great thing (walking)," she said. "I am convinced that it has kept me off of an operating room table for my back, and all it costs you is a pair of good walking shoes."