Milford’s Mr. Clean

MILFORD – Talk about a New England work ethic.

Morris Avery, who is 80, sweeps around the Oval with a broom and dust pan at least three days a week.

A self-appointed street cleaner, he turned his attention to downtown streets and parking lots many years ago when Dick MacDonald, who closed up his barber shop on the Oval two years ago, was “crying,” he said, about how dirty the alley near his shop was.

“I hate to hear a grown man cry,” said Avery, so he put his corn-bristle broom to work and hasn’t stopped, often arriving here in the morning and sweeping until it gets dark.

On a recent Saturday he showed off the freshly-swept alley between the Pasta Loft and the Cafe on the Oval and had some caustic comments about the typical condition of the areas behind stores and restaurants on the south side of the Oval.

“It’s always a mess,” he said, with cigarette butts and broken beer bottles.

“You find cigarette butts wherever you go. They say there’s less smoking now, but there are still butts.”

One recent day he collected more than 11 1/2 bags of trash from a parking lot on South Street.

Avery is also particular about his tools. Every couple of months he has to replace his broom, and it has to be a corn broom.

He found $12 brooms at a local store, and he likes them because they have rubber around the handle that protects his hands.

Living on Social Security, he said, “you have to shop around.”

On Mondays, Wednesday and Fridays he goes for dialysis treatments. Some people would rest after that, but Avery sometimes drives to the Oval and works anyway.

“I was not brought up to look out the window,” he likes to say. “I was brought up to get up and go out and work.”

Avery lived in Milford for 30 years and when he had a job in Nashua years ago he would hitchhike back and forth to work. He remembers walking to work during a big storm in 1969, starting out in the early morning, and was nearly hit by a plow truck, he says.

Not only does he have diabetes, he had open heart surgery years ago and is the only one of seven sibling still alive.

He likes to say he was born in the Green Mountains and grew up in the White Mountains, during the Depression. His father was a blacksmith who died when he was in his 50s of the heart disease that plagued him family.

Avery worked for Hitchiner Manufacturing for 12 years and was laid off when he was 74.

After work he would often come to downtown Milford to sweep.

The cold doesn’t really bother him, but he tends to stay home when it snows. Last Sunday was chilly but he worked two to three hours.

His apartment, too

He also sweeps around his apartment building in Nashua. Yes, he lives in Nashua and drives to Milford, partly to see his children who live here, and partly because he can’t abide the idea of trash accumulating around the Oval, even the back alleys that few people see.

Aren’t there enough dirty alleyways and parking lots in Nashua to keep him busy?

“I come to Milford because I’ve done it for so long,” he said “I’d hate to see it (be dirty) after all them years.”

Judging from what shows up in his trash, vehicles are not built the way they used to be.

“If you could see all the nuts, bolts and filters that come off cars. It’s unbelievable.”

And it’s not just the pavement that grabs his attention.

Always cleaning

After a cup of coffee at the Union Coffee Company, Avery asked for a rag to wipe down the table.

“Most people would just leave it,” he said.

Kathy Cleveland can be reached at 673-3100, ext. 304, or