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Penryn resident cleans up - one walk at a time

81-year-old's strolls have led to trash pick-up and horrible 2009 discovery
By: Joyia Emard, Loomis News Staff Writer
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Some people have wondered if Mary Williams is homeless. But that doesn’t bother the 81-year-old, who rises before dawn six days a week, rain or shine, and strolls the roads of Loomis and Penryn with a trash bag on her back. The feisty octogenarian says she loves to walk, and while she’s walking, she might as well pick up trash. “I’ve always walked. I did it before it became a popular thing to do. When I startied walking, no one was walking for exercise. People used to look at me weird, but I didn’t care what they thought,” Williams said. “Some people think I’m homeless. I’ve had people ask me.” That may not bother Williams, but drivers who honk at her does, unless she’s in danger. “I do have to really watch where I’m going so I don’t fall,” she said. Williams’ clean-up efforts, along with her treks, have not gone unnoticed. Ted Greenfield, owner of Foothill Feed and Gift, is one of Williams’ neighbors in Penryn. “She’s a legend in our neighborhood. She’s a testament to what staying active physically and mentally can do,” Greenfield said. Dave Albright, of Loomis, headed Citizens Involved Means Better Living (CIMBL), a group of volunteers who cleaned Placer County roadsides. Albright said, “Bless her heart. She does it (picks up trash) just because it’s the right thing to do. It’s a thankless job. She’s one of those good souls.” Walking, Williams said, is also good therapy. She said she uses the time to “think about everything,” like her daughter Carolyn Alyesworth, who died from Lou Gehrig’s disease in 2008. “I think about the past and my family. I pray, too, to keep everybody safe,” she said. Williams and her husband, James, who died seven years ago, moved to Penryn in 1972. Two of her four children – Mark, 49, and Vellia Spencer, 50, attended Penryn Elementary School and graduated from Del Oro High School. Williams said she’s been taking walks all of her life. “My mom never learned how to drive. So we walked everywhere,” she said. “I like to be outside. It’s good for you – the sun and the fresh air.” Most mornings, Williams said, she is on the road before daylight. She wears a reflective vest and gloves and carries a flashlight and a trash-grabbing tool, along with the sack. Williams doesn’t let the weather stop her, although she once saw a mountain lion in Penryn that caused her to adjust her route. “I still walk in the rain with an umbrella. I’ve torn up so many umbrellas from the wind,” she said. Williams didn’t even let cancer treatment keep her from her ambles. “I’m cancer-free now, but I had uterine cancer. I had chemotherapy and radiation done at the same time. I walked with my chemo bag,” she said. For the most part, Williams’ walks are uneventful. But something terrible did happen on July 3, 2009. Williams said she adjusted her route that day and cut through the Del Oro High School campus. As she approached Boyington Road, she spied something she thought was an animal. To her horror, Williams discovered that it was the body of a young woman. The victim was laster identified as Charsha Rene Smith, 20, of Del Paso Heights. Placer County Sheriff’s investigators determined she died elsewhere and was dumped at the site. “I felt so bad. Her grandmother called and wanted me to show her exactly where I found her. I still put flowers there sometimes,” Williams said. According to Placer County Sheriff’s Lt. Mark Reed, no cause of death was ever determined and no arrests were made. The case remains open.