Kelly Price, known affectionately as the 'Can Man,' dies
For those around town who didn't know Kelly Price's name, he was the one who many affectionately called the "Can Man," seen daily walking around Sherwood for nearly a half century in search of empty soda or beer cans to recycle or return for cash.
For those who did know him, he was a diligent worker who made sure that Sherwood's streets and parks were free of litter and that the gardens he worked on were pristine.
"That was his thing was picking up cans everywhere and that was his hobby, keeping Sherwood clean," said Kelly's sister, long-time Sherwood resident Odge Gribble. "It was really only two years ago that he stopped collecting cans."
And he was a "sweetie" to boot, said Gribble.
Kelly died on Wednesday, Oct. 25, at Providence St. Vincent Medical Center at age 80 from complications related to his Parkinson's disease, closing the book on a long life with days where he often logged 20 miles.
"That wasn't once in a while, that was almost every day," Gribble said of her brother's walking habit, which she believes prolonged his life.
Gribble said that over the years, Kelly became such a popular figure around town that residents would often show up at his door loaded with bags of cans for him.
"He was really a very sweet person, he had a touch of autism we think," said Gribble, noting that his speech was a little slower than most people's.
But it was his innocence and willingness to help other people that stuck in many people's minds and he could be seen either riding his bike or walking in various parts of town and beyond.
Sometimes he would walk as far as Parrett Mountain, and one time when he was young, he walked all the way to Hillsboro, frightening his mother, Gribble recalled.
But he would find things on his ventures as well.
He once found a wallet near the old train trestle that used to cross over Highway 99W. Inside was $200 cash and some credit cards. Gribble said they contacted the man's wife who was grateful.
"She said, 'keep the money'…and Kelly said 'no.'"
Later, the woman insisted and gave him $50 cash, which thrilled Kelly.
But his biggest discovery came when he found a purse next to some wooden benches at Sherwood Plaza years ago. Inside was $2,000 in cash.
Suddenly, a woman appeared and said she was grateful he had found her lost purse.
"He said, 'yes, you should be more careful," gently chastising the woman, Gribble recalled. Apparently the woman was from Oklahoma and the cash was the family's entire vacation money.
A newspaper article written two decades ago, chronicled Kelly can-collecting habit, reporting, "With two to three bags average, Kelly makes around 11-13 dollars a trip, which is up to 260 cans."
Recently, Kelly and Gribble were discussing the increased value for redeemed cans and bottles, which went from a nickel to a dime.
"He was so mad," said Gribble. "He said, 'I would have been rich if it was 10 cents a can.'"
Over the years, Kelly received numerous plaques for his hard work including one from Sherwood United Methodist Church for his gardening prowess and two from the city of Sherwood, one of which was the 1995 Brass Spade Award, an award that praised his diligence in keeping city parks clean.
Kelly attended the old Sherwood Public School House, which has since been razed, and later Sherwood High School (which is now Sherwood Middle School.) He served in the U.S. Army as well for a short time in the 1950s.
But in 1992, Kelly was diagnosed with Parkinson's disease as well as an essential tremor that affected his right arm. An operation helped him with his tremor and allowed him once again to draw his intricate charcoal and pencil renderings of space landing pads and other favorite designs.
For Gribble, who was Kelly's caretaker for much of his life, her brother's death is not only a huge loss on a personal level but also marks the end of an era for the Price family, making Gribble the sole survivor in a family of nine children.
"He was the baby of the whole family," Gribble recalled. "He was the only one of us who was born in Sherwood."
At one time, Kelly rode his bike everywhere until he suffered an accident about 25 years ago, when he was riding in Tigard and a trailer clipped him, sending him flying into a ditch. Despite the accident, Kelly picked up his mangled bike and walked to the family's Tigard doctor who patched up a gash in his forehead.
Gribble said Kelly also loved to collect rocks and coins and many a resident would drop those items by for him. Still, Gribble said Kelly's greatest joy in life was simply assisting people and could often be found helping out with the Saturday doughnuts made at the Rebekah Hall
"He loved making doughnuts," said Gribble.
In recent years, Kelly ended up in a local assisted-living home in Sherwood where they "were so wonderful" to him.
Gribble said she hopes to hold a celebration of Kelly's life a few months from now with his ashes eventually interred in the family plot in Echo, Oregon.