MIDDLETOWN, R.I. (WPRI) — To many Middletown residents, Ron Kobayashi is a familiar face.
Every morning, the 80-year-old strolls down Oliphant Lane, picking up trash and waving to everyone as they drive by.
Kobayashi’s walk is sometimes briefly interrupted by neighbors who beep their car horns, slow down or pull over to chat with him.
It’s a routine he’s kept for the past seven years, and it all started after he underwent quadruple bypass heart surgery.
“I felt I should get out and go exercise,” Kobayashi said. “So I started walking everyday, and it’s a good thing to pick up the trash.”
Kobayashi said the coronavirus pandemic hasn’t slowed him down, either.
“Since this virus thing started, I don’t remember a day I didn’t go out,” he said. “If I make the excuse to not go, it makes it harder the next day.”
Kobayashi said at first, he only waved to a couple of cars. But over time, a couple of cars turned into nearly all of them.
When asked whether he knew all of the people he was waving at, he said, “not very many.”
“I started waving at the cars of people I knew. But after a while, it turned out to be a lot of people, and it just became easier to wave at everybody,” he said.
While Kobayashi doesn’t know all of the people he interacts with, they certainly know him. So much so, that when the community got word his birthday was coming up, they made sure to celebrate his special day.
“I thought not many people knew my birthday, but as it turns out, one of the houses down the street, the fellow who’s dog I give biscuits to, he said ‘Happy Birthday,'” Kobayashi recalled. “I said, ‘How did you find out?’ and he said, ‘It’s on Facebook.'”
Kobayashi was surprised to see just how many people knew it was his birthday. One family even wrote “Happy Birthday!” for him on their driveway with sidewalk chalk.
Maureen Cook, one of Kobayashi’s neighbors, said his kindness resonates with many Middletown residents.
“He picks up our paper every morning, puts it on the stoop and off he goes,” Cook said. “He picks up trash, and if your dumpster is falling over, he’s picking up your recyclables and putting them back in. He takes your trash buckets and puts them back inside.”
“He’s just one of those nice people that every neighborhood needs,” she continued. “It’s just one of those things you look forward to in the morning on your way to work, to see him and to wave at him. Him standing there, waving at everyone that goes by, it’s great. It’s nice that he’s getting some recognition.”