Modest retiree recognized for keeping Napanee neat

Sophocles wrote that “to be doing good deeds is man’s most glorious task.” While picking up other people’s trash might not seem glorious, the Downtown Napanee Merchants Association is certainly thankful for Wayne Forte’s good deeds.

The Merchants Association took a moment Friday to recognize Forte for quietly doing his best to keep Napanee beautiful for over a year now.

Wayne and Katheryn Forte began picking up trash along the Waterfront Trail in Napanee in the spring of 2022, and Wayne said he just kept on doing it out of a need to keep active — and because he thinks Napanee is a great place to live.

Merchants Association members saw the septuagenarian quietly going about picking up trash multiple times a week. Once they realized how much time Forte spends cleaning up other people’s messes, they wanted to thank him. So Ron Yeomans, President of the Merchants Association, presented Forte with a $50 gift card for a local cafe, Coffee Cravings, as a token of gratitude.

 “We just really, really appreciate Wayne and all he does for the downtown,” explained Yeomans from his store, A Hard Days Workwear. “The shopkeepers try their best to keep the sidewalks clean, but he helps us a lot [with] not only the sidewalks, but the parking areas and the places that the Town can’t get to and places the merchants don’t think of. So it’s terrific that he’s here, and it is nice to have extra volunteers doing all kinds of things around downtown. We can use all the volunteers we can get.”

Downtown Napanee Merchants Association President Ron Yeomans (right) presents Forte (left) with a $50 gift card for a local cafe, Coffee Cravings, as a token of gratitude. Photo by Michelle Dorey Forestell/Kingstonist.

Forte said he doesn’t do the good deed in expectation of any reward, but “it’s nice.“ Moreover, “A lot of people just stop and say, ‘Thank you,’ and that’s nice. Just out of the blue, someone will come out of a store… or a person out for a walk will come along and say, ‘Thanks for doing that.’ You know, that’s all you really need.”

Forte and his wife Katheryn live in Vyas Villa on the south side of the Napanee River, right next to the town’s Waterfront Trail. “Of course, that river’s gorgeous, everybody should realize that,” said Forte. “And [the trail is] used by hundreds of people… So last March, as soon as winter broke, my wife and I walked along the north side of the river…  [We] went behind the water purification place, and we picked up five black bags full of garbage… and I just kept at it.”

Now, at least three to five times a week, he makes the rounds tidying up the town, Forte said. “If I don’t have something else on and if it’s a nice day, I’m gone.”

Forte is a retired Bell Canada employee of 30 years; he and his wife moved to Napanee in November of  2021. His old home was on a lakeside property north of Kingston. “We had to leave our lake, but the river is really nice… and the people are so friendly here [in Napanee]. I just love that atmosphere. I can go along and pet a dog or say ‘Hi’ to people; they’re always there with a smile.”

“We’re happy here. I worked throughout this area since 1966. I’m an old timer,” he laughed, “and I’ve noticed Napanee, especially in the last 20 years or so, has really improved. It has really become a great spot, and when that Gibbard’s [Furniture] place ever gets done, it’s going to be fabulous. I think it will be great for drawing people from all over, not just to live there, but the shops and things.”

Ultimately, Forte said, he does his quiet cleaning for the love of his new home. “We’re very happy to be living in Napanee. You always get a smile from people. And I say if you’re smiling here,” he indicated his face before pointing to his heart, “you’re smiling here.” 

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