The custodian of Texas Avenue

Thursday, December 18, 2003 | 12:00 a.m. CST; updated 8:38 p.m. CDT, Sunday, July 20, 2008


Clutching a white plastic grocery bag in one hand, Betty Rose Northup bends down gingerly to scoop up a soggy newspaper with the other. Droplets from the steady November drizzle meander down the wisps of matted golden hair poking out from under her white hat.

“It’s a throw-away society,” Northup says as she fills the bag, her dog, Shadow, in tow. “People throw away dogs; they throw away babies.”

They also litter.

But thanks to this sprightly Columbia retiree (she doesn’t give her age, instead she quotes her Irish grandmother — “a woman who tells her age will tell anything”), rubbish doesn’t bedeck the Texas Avenue landscape for long.

Northup has spent countless days during the past six years wandering the half-mile loop through the neighborhood she and her husband, Bert Kunzler, call home. An Adopt-A-Spot sign bears her name — a testament to Northup’s commitment.

She says her motivation for the service comes from a love for walking and a profound appreciation of her past. During the Great Depression, Northup’s family trudged through poverty.

“I never had a home,” she says. “Once I got a home you couldn’t blast me out of it. I love Columbia. I really do, and I want to give back to the community.”

Wish Box

GROUP: City of Columbia, Public Works Volunteer Program, Adopt-A-Spot

SUMMARY: The Columbia Public Works Department has identified areas in the community that need cleaning up. Volunteers make a one-year commitment to maintain their site and agree to a clean-up schedule with the Public Works Volunteer Program Assistant, Christine Gardener. Upon approval of the plan, an Adopt-A-Spot sign is placed at the location of the proposed litter collection area.

CONTACT: City of Columbia, Solid Waste Division, Public Works Volunteer Program.

P.O Box 6015, Columbia, 65205. 874-6271; fax, 449-9641


Web site:

WISH: “The only wish I have is that we can keep our community nice and clean and safe.”

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