Elizabeth Brownrigg

Submitted on 2013/07/27 at 12:39 PM

A Day on the Water with Elmer

In 2008, I spent a wonderful day on the water with Elmer Eddy and the Stewards. I wrote a couple of articles about Elmer, one for Wildlife in North Carolina and one for Sierra Magazine. I’ve reproduced the Sierra piece below.

Thank you, Elmer. You are an inspiration!

– Elizabeth Brownrigg

“Elmer Eddy is my real name. I call myself ‘The White Oak River Trash Man.’ Our group is called ‘Stewards of Our Waterways.’”

“Every time we paddle, we pick up trash and we think nothing of it. We can take you from Stella to Swansboro on the White Oak River in North Carolina and you don’t see much trash. We do it on the White Oak River because that’s where I live. I fell in love with it. We got awards for cleaning it up, including the Pelican Award from the North Carolina Coastal Federation.”

“We pick the best day of the week to go. We try to go to a new place all the time, because our goal is to paddle every foot of shoreline and every creek and tributary within a hundred miles. Some of the most unusual finds have been up little creeks. We found an Indian dressed in cowboy clothing – carved with a chainsaw out of wood. He had been standing in front of an antique shop. Hurricane Ophelia took him up the river, and that’s where we found him.”

“We find a lot of ghost crab pots. Those are crab pots where motorboats have run over the line and cut through. Fish and turtles and birds get caught in them. A crab pot was stacked up on land in a marina and a hawk got in to get the fish or crabs out of the thing, and he couldn’t get out. We were very careful about getting that hawk out of that crab pot. I’ve got crab pot plugs hanging on my back fence, which my wife doesn’t like very much, but I think they give the back yard a salty flavor.”

“I’ll be 90 on April 28, 2009. My doctor tells me, ‘You start paddling twice a week. You need to do it to get away from the stress.’ I’m the caretaker for my wife. I never feel better than right now after a trip, getting a good workout for the day and getting outside.”

And the Messy Award Goes To: Most trash on waterways is found around bridges. The litter ranges from bait buckets and soda cans left behind by fishermen to illegally dumped mattresses and televisions.”


Elmer Eddy Memorial Service

A Memorial Service will be held for Elmer this Sunday, July 28, 2013, 3PM, at Kahlert Funerals & Cremations, 308 Main St., Maysville, NC 28555. There will be a brief reception following the service.

In lieu of flowers, we are asking that donations be made to “WATERWAYSTEWARDS US” (mail to 205 Spann Rd., Trenton, NC 28585).  Thanks!

Please read more at Elmer Eddy.


Peggy Erickson RE: Elmer

On 7/24/2013 9:14 PM, PEGGY ERICKSON wrote:
> John,
> So sorry to hear about Elmer’s passing.
> He was a great guy and passionate about keeping our waters clean.
> I remember him telling the Kayak club about when the snake fell out of a
> tree and into his canoe.
> He handled the situation better then I would.
> I will go kayaking in memory of him this weekend and pick up some trash.
> He was loved by many and will be missed.
> Prayers & thoughts
> God Bless.
> Peggy Erickson


Sean Valentino on Elmer’s Inspiration

On 7/24/2013 6:15 PM, Sean Valentino wrote:
> Dear Eddy Family,
> My deepest condolences for your loss. I never met Elmer, but I was inspired by his efforts. I saw a sign on the way back from the beach and visited the website and now bring a trash picker, bags and gloves every time I paddle on the Tar River here in Greenville, NC. I have hauled out hundreds of lbs of trash off the river and river banks on my kayak.
> Sean Valentino


Jim Crownover RE: Elmer

On 7/25/2013 7:55 PM, jbc@crownover.com wrote:
> Hi Jack
> Yes, Elmer and I been out on many wonderful trips together. I have
> countless fond memories. I have a special memory of us clamming while
> sitting in a shallow area of the Bogue Sound. There were very few clams
> and as I would dig them up he would crack them open and eat them. We had
> no tools.
> He did get some pictures on this page.
> http://www.crownover.com/kayak/boguesound731.html
> I would like very much for you to link my trip to the website. That is my
> son and his kids. Joe and his wife Jen knew Elmer also. They now live in
> the Netherlands. Jen�s sister also met him and helped get him a
> certificate. Here are some pictures from that day in July 2001.
> http://www.crownover.org/forty.html
> Elmer put some trash stories on some of my web pages such as this one.
> http://www.crownover.org/elmer.html
> We will be making a donation.
> Elmer was a wonderful part of my life.
> Jim


Jackie Foster on Meeting Elmer

On 7/24/2013 8:20 PM, Jackie Foster wrote:
I want you to know about the time I first met your father! It was many years ago, one early Saturday morning in Maysville at the Hardees. He was taking care of some personal needs for his wife (I think your mother) and I just happened to have clean underwear in my suitcase as we were coming down to EI for the weekend from our then home in Burlington. Elmer and I got talking, he gave me his “business” card “The White Oak River Trashman” and invited me to get in touch with him when I retired and move down to EI permanently…which I did. So I got to go on a few trash runs with him…a very special man, very dedicated! A blessing to have known him.

Jackie Foster

On Thursday, July 25, 2013 10:47 AM John Eddy replied:
Thank you so much for sharing that story! My dad never met a stranger. He was naturally a meeter and greeter. As a child, he took me on many adventures across the state and we always ended up with a new friend or two on every trip. May I share your story with others on our website? You may share it yourself as a comment by logging in and commenting on the obituary post, if you like.

Thanks again,


On 7/26/2013 7:26 AM, Jackie Foster wrote:
Certainly share. You probably can word it better than I.



Memorial Service for Elmer Eddy

A Memorial Service will be held for Elmer this Sunday, July 28, 2013, 3PM, at Kahlert Funerals & Cremations, 308 Main St., Maysville, NC 28555.  There will be a brief reception following the service.

In lieu of flowers, we are asking that donations be made to “WATERWAYSTEWARDS US” (mail to 205 Spann Rd., Trenton, NC 28585).

We plan to use all donations to keep this website going.  Elmer has more than a decade of write-ups and photographs that are archived by date and are searchable by keyword.  We’d like to keep that available as a resource.

We’d also like to invite everyone to contribute write-ups and photos of future trips as well.  Please Contact Us if you are interested in authoring.


Elmer Eddy, The Trashman, has Passed Away


After 94 active years, Elmer has passed away.  He held onto his hopes and dreams that he could clear the waterways of trash and obstructions up until the very end.  He never gave up, he still had ideas and drive.  Even the day before he died, July 23, 2013, he was still hoping he could get better so that he could collect more trash, prevent litter, and clear our waterways of obstructions.  Unfortunately, his heart was unable to continue the fight.  He died peacefully at home, surrounded by family.  He will be missed.  There is no other.

His final hope was that his efforts had made a difference, not so much in the trash he picked up or the streams he cleared, though both were large in scope for any individual.   He hoped that he had inspired others to be aware of the problems and continue the effort.  He knew that no matter how much he did, there would always be more, but that if he inspired others to the cause, that would make a true and lasting difference.  He also wanted to thank all of those who paddled and boated with him for their company, friendship, and shared purpose.

Go boating, paddle a stream, drive a rural road in Onslow, Jones, Craven,  and Carteret Counties.  Think of  him when you don’t see trash as you paddle or drive, when you can get through that blowdown, and especially when you see other Stewards, maybe inspired by him, cleaning and clearing those waterways!

From his family, a heartfelt thanks to all who have meant so much to him and pitched in to further the causes over the the years.   Please look back through this website.  See yourselves and what you accomplished.  We thank you!