When Edward and Mildred Ezzell bought their home in the Eastborough neighborhood in 1974, they quickly discovered there was a drainage problem.
Every time it rained, water pooled at their corner of Ruskin Drive and Browning Avenue, a block east of Academy Boulevard just south of Pikes Peak Avenue.
Storm drains installed at the corner were poorly designed and easily clog, causing minor flooding with each storm.
"We are at the bottom of the hill," Edward told me. "We get everything that comes down Ruskin from Pikes Peak and everything that comes down Browning."
Rather than get mad or call the city and complain, Edward, 75, grabbed his broom and shovel, a 5-gallon bucket and a cart and got busy.
And he has stayed busy ever since, sweeping and shoveling and hauling dirt and gravel from the drain.
It's a year-round chore. In fact, Edward says it's especially important he keep the drain open during the winter because the flooding turns into a dangerous sheet of ice, if left unattended.
"We have a school at the top of the hill on Browning," he said. "Those young mothers come flying down this hill. The last thing we need is a road covered with ice. They slide right out into Ruskin and hit the curb on the other side."
Edward also shovels snow from the corner and surrounding sidewalks in winter and expects nothing in return.
Longtime neighbors have noticed his efforts and even called Side Streets to single him out for praise, which he was reluctant to accept.
"He is known in the neighborhood for meticulously cleaning a city storm drain," said Despina Struck, who lives a few blocks south and sees Edward regularly shoveling gravel from the drain.
"I walk every morning, and I see him out there all the time," Despina said. "After a rain, there's always sediment in the drain. He goes out and sweeps it all up."
In fact, Despina can hardly believe folks like Edward exist.
"I've lived here since 1981, and he's been doing it all that time," she said. "We don't have enough citizens like him. We need more people like him."
Darla Lauppe grew up across the street from the Ezzells and still lives there. She said Edward has made a big impact on the neighborhood and suggests the corner would have eroded away long ago without his attention.
"He has saved the city money," Darla said. "Without him keeping it clean, there wouldn't be a curb or sidewalk left."
Darla said the amount of debris that collects on the corner is surprising.
"I worry about him carrying such super-heavy stuff," she said. "We're talking dirt and rock."
She said Edward has been a great role model for her family.
"He inspires us," she said. "We get out and clean our side of the street because of him."
I asked Edward why he shoulders the responsibility, which logically should be the duty of city street crews.
"I'm a positive person," said Edward, who served a career in the Air Force, working on missile warning systems before retiring in 1982 as a chief master sergeant.
"If something's broke, you help fix it," he said. "If something isn't working, you do what you can.
"This is just something that has needed doing."
What a great attitude. Imagine how nice all our streets would look if everyone took pride in maintaining their corner the way Edward does.
On behalf of all the folks over the past four decades who didn't get flooded or slide on ice at Ruskin and Browning because of Edward's anonymous efforts, let me echo Despina and Darla: Thanks and we need more people like you!
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