Vivian Hahn keeps a scrapbook that includes a list unusual litter she has picked up in nearly two decades of cleaning ravines, streets, roads, avenues, drives, lanes, parkways and crescents.
"That was the weirdest thing I ever found!" she laughs. "Look at the price."
Hahn, who recalls having a good laugh before safely disposing the contents, was glad she had found it before any children did.
"Can you imagine?" she said, shaking her head. "You wouldn't believe what I've found over the 17 years that we've been here. And it's stuff that people could pick up. It's just unreal.
"This rubberized wheel barrow was down in a ravine, close to Baldwin Street, near the golf course. It laid there for two weeks. Finally I said to my husband, 'I can bring that up.' So I went down the ravine and dragged it back, and he helped me put it over the fence."
Her scrapbook also includes a town map, given to her in 2007 when she was named Citizen of the Year, that highlights her routes.
"A lot of it has changed – the ravines here have fences, but at one time I cleaned all these ravines. But now I don't have to clean as many because the Quarter Line, they've really fixed it up. They've got big fences. I still do a lot of the ravines though. With the fences, the garbage doesn't go all the way down. And you know, most of it (garbage) was all from the builders. Bags and stuff they used, insulation stuff, the wind would blow it and they didn't bother picking it up. The town was good, they picked it up."
Hahn, 81, still walks her routes on a nearly daily basis, depending on weather, spring, summer and fall. Over the years she made a few route modifications.
"When I do the Quarter Line, I take Concession, and I cut it in half here. I take this street, that little parkway. When I used to do that one route, it was seven miles, and that was in one day. Now I've cut it down, so I'd say it's about three miles."
She would do that route for a week, and little routes in between. The next week she would go up Highway 19 (Vienna Road), over to the Tillsonburg Cemetery, and back, which was also seven miles. She also cleans along North Street and Broadway.
Hahn admits she doesn't hop guard rails like she used to. These days she uses a stick – not quite walking-stick size – to reach over the rails. She leaves garbage in plastic bags on the side of roads/streets, tied a certain way so town staff will recognize her handiwork and stop to pick up.
"I want to thank so many people that have stopped to take my bags and give me bags, also the young boys working for the town, and also the men who pick up my garbage. I love you guys.
"I also like to thank the ones who let me use their dumpsters, and especially Burger King. If I need water, they are there for me."
The most common litter items, she said, are water bottles and Tim Hortons cups.
"It's a good thing I can stack them, I'd need I don't know how many bags.
"What really bothers me is all the carts around town. One day it looked like rain so I just stayed around the Town Centre and Canadian Tire. I brought back 20 carts. I do wish they would start charging people a looney. There are all kinds (of shopping carts) that I find."
Hahn said she does not pick up litter, and clean drains ("the drains are terrible") because 'she has to.' She does it because she likes getting outside, and she loves meeting people.
"I meet a lot of nice people. That's the most enjoyable part – meeting the people. And I know a lot of people. Well, I may not know who they are but I knew their aunts and uncles. It's amazing."
Recently on a Tillsonburg-related Facebook page, talk about Hahn led to a series of nearly 100 messages of thanks recognizing her efforts, mostly from people she didn't know.
"I want to thank Lisa Anne Dodsley for putting me on Facebook and a special thanks to my great niece Darby Van Daele and Corry Davis, a good friend, love you both, and all the people who also said thanks. It gives me a lift.
"It's been 31 years that my husband and I have picked up garbage," Hahn noted.
It all started the year her husband John had a massive heart attack at their eldest son's wedding reception, after the bridal dance.
"I did not see him around, but with so many people (450) I did not know where he was. Good friends had taken him to Simcoe hospital – God bless them both. It was after he came home three weeks later, they told him he should be walking."
So Vivian started walking with John in Norwich and it led to them picking up litter on a five-mile route.
"One day he said 'do you notice the garbage?' We were both concerned about the environment."
Not only is her work good for the environment, it's good for her health, too. She highly recommends walking to seniors.
"When I started to walk 31 years ago I weighed 127 lbs. From all my walking here I am now 115. In the winter I will not walk, because it's not safe, but I enjoy pushing snow where I live. In our parking lot, and cleaning off cars for the seniors."
How long will she continue her quest to keep Tillsonburg clean? As long as she's able.
"I'm going to keep going as long as I'm doing good. Years ago, I was a lot faster. Now, I take my time."