Caverly Whittemore walks a lot. He lives at Burbank Heights, a senior housing community, and you can often see him strolling down Bodega Avenue and around downtown. If there’s a happening in town — the farmers market, a street party or a protest — he’s sure to be there: a thin, gray-haired, bearded man, smiling beneficently and quietly embodying his gospel of universal love.
But there’s one thing in the universe that Whittemore doesn’t love, and that’s weeds.
For the last four years, Whittemore has waged a one-man war against weeds on Bodega Avenue. He ranges from Pleasant Hill to downtown, plucking out every plantain, spurge, foxtail or bull thistle that dares invade his territory.
“I've got numerous areas that I take care of,” he said, noting that he regularly weeds the gardens around the library, city hall and post office, as well as the sidewalk area in front of Park Side School and just about everything in between.
“Being a pedestrian, I see this stuff,” he said.
And when he sees a weed he plucks it out.
“It makes my community more beautiful and helps make it feel cared for,” Whittemore said. “I guess that's why I pull weeds from the sidewalk, especially in front of the elementary school. You know, it's an endless thing but I want the kids who go to that school to see that it’s cared for,” he said.
“I spent my adult life in San Francisco and Boston and I was a city person who was never in touch with nature,” he said. “But when I got here to Luther Burbank’s town, it really made an impression on me, how wonderful it is taking care of plants. So when I do it I feel like I'm one of Burbank’s angels or accomplices.
“My big thing is keeping invasive weeds out,” he said “I went by the church across from Ceres a couple of weeks ago, and they had three different types of weeds that were just taking over and dropping seeds. It would have destroyed that whole garden. I just started in one corner and just kept on going, and in an hour and 15 minutes, I got it all cleared out.”
“There have been times when I knock on people's doors and ask if I can borrow their garbage can or rake and then go clean an area up. I get a lot of cooperation,” he said.
Whittemore also loves watering the plants in the nursery at Burbank Experiment Farm, which is right next door to his apartment complex.
“I'm also really proud of this strip of golden poppies that goes along Bodega Avenue. I check on that two or three times a day.” He likes to think of the 15,000 or so drivers that pass by there every day enjoying his handiwork.
“I see so many people doing so many wonderful things for the community that I'm really glad that I have something that I can do that protects the plants and helps make the city more beautiful for the wonderful people who live here,” he said.