The straws, cigarette butts, plastic bags, and dog feces that Bruce and Diane Crum find on the streets of South Pasadena may not alarm city residents, but the number of diapers and hypodermic needles that the couple disposes into orange sanitation bags each week might raise some eyebrows.
Most probably don’t know that the South Pasadena High School Class of 1960 graduate and her husband spend four to five mornings a week cleaning up the city’s streets and sidewalks. The retired Los Angeles County Transportation Authority (Metro) employees, who met at their former employer and married in 1990, keep a low profile, preferring to work in the quiet morning hours to beat the heat.
“I was a bit surprised that they were willing to be interviewed,” said Peggy O’Leary, referring to the Crums’ reticence to be recognized publicly for their efforts. Peggy reconnected with Diane just four years ago after the two graduated from SPHS together, and has, along with her fiancée John Vandercook, become close friends with the couple. O’Leary added, “They do the work they do because they enjoy living in a clean city, and we all benefit from their efforts.”
Some of the areas Diane and Bruce frequently target include the half-mile stretch of Arroyo Drive and Pasadena Avenue that hugs the outskirts of the golf course and nature park, the Arroyo Seco itself—from Stoney Drive to San Pasqual Avenue, the Avenue 60 onramp, the alleyway behind Bank of America on El Centro Street, and most challenging of all, the Marmion Way off-ramp of the 110 Freeway.
“There is a congregation point on our city’s side of the freeway. People dump their refrigerators and couches, and they don’t get picked up,” said Bruce. Marmion Way is also where the couple finds the dirty diapers, needles and occasionally even human feces.
“South Pasadena is just a city to pass through for many surrounding communities,” said Diane. “We just wish people would take care of their own property and businesses.”
After working for Metro for decades, the Crums now find themselves badgering their former employer, at times begging it to clean up properties it owns in South Pasadena. Oftentimes, they are rebuked or ignored, but they take these struggles in stride. And they always try to call the department and thank it.
The Crums have experienced a couple of serious health scares since they began this project in 2012, including Diane’s breast cancer diagnosis that same year. However, these scares have actually reinvigorated them.
Last October, while walking up Marmion Way to begin a morning cleanup, Bruce began to struggle for breath. He felt his heart “was in a vice,” and asked Diane to rush him to the hospital. An angiogram showed that one of his arteries was nearly completely blocked. “It was a wake-up call, like, ‘Dude, you’re mortal,’” Bruce remembered.
But months later he was back out on the streets, cleaning up the city.
In addition to their sanitation efforts, Bruce and Diane are members of various community organizations. Bruce joined the South Pasadena Kiwanis Club in 2012. He has already served as the club’s president twice and is currently its secretary. Bruce is also a member of the American Legion in Alhambra and the Oneonta Club of South Pasadena. Diane is a member of both the South Pasadena Women’s Club and Women Involved in South Pasadena Political Action (WISPPA).
Both are members of South Pasadena Beautiful.