Olympia, and its dogs, will miss garbage collector with a heart

With a wave, a treat or just a hand with a can, David Lobe made a difference

Staff writerMarch 26, 2014 

Posing with his “Iron Man” metal sculpture, which serves as a headstone for several family pets, retired garbageman David Lobe has gone from hauling trash to just haulin’ as he turns his attention now to classic and custom vehicles and metal art. Lobe was a well-known fixture on his trash route for years, giving candy to kids, treats to dogs and even playing Santa.

STEVE BLOOM/STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER

For 25 years, David Lobe was a garbageman with a human touch.

The lifelong Olympia resident retired March 14, but not after making a difference in the lives of people — and animals — on his routes.

The connection to his customers began out of necessity. Lobe kept a pocketful of dog treats to defuse any heated canine encounters whenever he was dumping cans. Eventually, he started bringing candy and suckers for the people who greeted him on the job. Children, adults and dogs would wait for their friendly garbageman to arrive.

“Dogs never forget. They know I’m coming before the people do,” he said with a laugh. “That’s what made the job fun for me.”

At Christmas time, he would buy toys for some less-fortunate children on his routes. Over the years, Lobe watched those same children grow into adults.

Although he didn’t know every customer by name, Lobe misses all of them. It was a way to have fun while collecting garbage from nearly 900 homes a day.

“That’s one of the things I’ll miss about my job, seeing all my friends,” said Lobe, who also enjoyed reaching out to seniors. “Just a simple wave or anything like that really makes a big difference for a lot of the people.”

One of those people is Richard Sweet, who lives on a cul-de-sac in the Goldcrest neighborhood in west Olympia. Sweet has limited mobility and uses an electric scooter when walking his dog, Dolly. To help, Lobe would haul Sweet’s garbage can from the curb to the top of the driveway – and leave a week’s worth of dog treats on the lid.

When finished, Lobe would say hello and goodbye by beeping the garbage truck’s horn. Sweet said he often heard more beeps coming from other parts of the neighborhood.

“I kind of miss his friendliness and how good he was with the dog,” said Sweet. “You don’t meet too many people like that.”

Although some people in his profession may prefer the term “refuse collector,” Lobe said he was just fine being called a garbageman.

Mark Cotey, waste resources supervisor for the city, said Lobe was also popular among co-workers. Most mornings, everyone in the crew got a pat on the back or the head.

Cotey has received letters from customers who appreciated Lobe’s big heart.

“He was just everybody’s friend,” said Cotey, recalling the times Lobe played Santa for local children and the time he gave a retired woman a motorcycle ride after work, just because she had always wanted to ride one. “He’s just one of those guys who’s a rare treat to be around.”

Aside from a love for riding his Harley-Davidson and restoring hot rods, Lobe also has a knack for art. In retirement, he plans to make and sell metal yard art, such as metal animals or copper ships.

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