You may have seen him—a well-built older man walking along the Haverford College and Radnor trails, or perhaps in Gladwyne or Valley Forge, scanning the area for bits of trash he then drops into a plastic bag. Sometimes he darts off the path into a nearby thicket or along a streambed, negotiating the rocks like an agile mountain goat when he spots a stray beer bottle or candy wrapper.
Tom Moore does this six days a week—and if you stop to ask him why, he’ll probably give his stock reply: “I’m making up for a misspent youth.”
But his mischievous grin implies that there’s more to the story than that.
Indeed, there is. Put simply, Moore is a successful businessman who has embraced the benefits of regular exercise and hates what he sometimes sees when he’s getting it. “I just like the outdoors, and I can’t stand all this litter everywhere,” says the 61-year-old Moore. “And I do have a bit of obsessive-compulsive disorder.”
A native of Charleston, W.Va., Moore
has three steel-fabricating businesses there but operates them from the Main Line. He moved here about 30 years ago, buying a home in Haverford with his wife, Maribeth, an Ardmore native, and raising
three children. About five years ago, he started doing four or five miles a day on the local trails, where he’s appalled by the trash he sees.
“Nothing is free in life,” says Moore, relaxing at a local bagel shop before setting out on his route. “If you want something good to happen, show by example.”
And cleanliness begets cleanliness. “If people see someone picking up, it seems to resonate inside of them, and they become more aware of it,” he says.
Today’s route starts on Railroad Avenue, at the edge of the Haverford College campus. After a few hundred yards, Moore ducks into a clump of dense vegetation, emerging with a beer bottle and a cut on his right calf, which he ignores as the blood heads slowly toward his sweat sock. A few people glance at him. “Most of them figure it out,” he says. “But if they don’t, I don’t care. If you want to see stares, follow me when I’m wearing a suit.”
After an off-trail detour, he walks along the campus lake. A goose seems to flinch slightly as he snatches a candy wrapper nearby. It’s a Monday, and the bag fills rapidly. “Sundays and Mondays are the big days,” says Moore.
What’s the most bizarre thing he’s picked up? “I won’t go there,” he says, laughing, “but I don’t pick up anything with bodily fluids on it.”
A young couple walks onto the trail, carrying an infant. They’ve just enjoyed a few moments of litter-free relaxation under a nearby tree. “That’s the perfect motivation for me,” says Moore. “They’ve probably been up all night.”
Longtime MLT contributor Paul Jablow lives in Bryn Mawr.