Picking up litter serves as way to keep clean, connect with community for Hyde Park man

Chicago's Very Own

CHICAGO — At first glance he might appear to be your typical dog walker, but Wayne Johnson’s daily treks along Chicago’s lakefront with his Siberian husky is quickly earning him the title of good neighbor.  

For the Hyde Park resident, picking up litter during his daily walks is like a ritual. Every day he and his dog Chloe hit the lakefront.

“Hyde Park is a beautiful place, people love to come here and enjoy themselves because of that a lot of stuff gets left behind,” he said.

“He feels it’s his neighborly duty to keep it tidy. So with a bucket in one hand and dog leash in the other, Johnson picks up any scraps of litter he sees along their route from 55th Street to Chicago’s promontory point.     

“I got a long leash for my dog and grabber so it makes it much more efficient, so I can kind of go through a 30-foot swath and kind of leave it a bit nicer than when I leave,” Johnson said.

Johnson doesn’t want a reward or recognition for his tidying up. He’s simply happy to have the opportunity to be a good neighbor. Something he realized when he had a brush with death after suffering a heart attack riding his bike near china town.     

“The two EMTs that just happened to be going over the bridge by ping tom park and just happened to see me fall asleep on my bicycle,” he said.

It was their quick action that saved his life.    

“I think if they only knew the good Samaritan ship that I was the recipient of I could never, I could only hope to give that back to somebody else,” Johnson said.

His good heart comes from watching his late father-in-law Edison Hoard. A lawyer and community servant in the late 60s and early 70s, he advocated for underprivileged children. This South Side park has been named in his honor. 

Howard Logan met Johnson during the summer of COVID-19 and said at first watching Johnson and his dog on the lakefront made him think he was a little eccentric. But that quickly changed.

“I knew there was something genuine about the man because he would stop and talk, he would ask you about your day,” Logan said.

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Logan says he found it refreshing. It’s not often, if at all, you see a resident picking up someone else’s trash, every day. It’s refreshing to know that there are people with a real sense of community. 

And through all of the trash he’s collected, he’s found a lot of treasure in the dozen of people he meets every day.

“I get back so much more than I give, because of the benefits of the job so to speak,” Johnson said. “It’s a beautiful place to be in and some beautiful people to meet.”

Johnson said he and Chloe enjoy the cold weather, so he continues to pick up trash throughout winter.      

Wayne Johnson is one of Chicago’s Very Own. 

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