Annapolis gives back to its beloved ‘Walking Man’ after decades
ANNAPOLIS, Md. — For 40-some years he would patrol West Street like clockwork, picking up trash in an animated jaunt that sometimes led him into the road. With trashbags tucked into his pants, he’d ask “Where the girls at?” and flash his legendary beaming smile.
Most knew him as “The Walking Man,” “The West Street Walker” or “The Bag Man.”
But it wasn’t until Carlester Smith, 63, disappeared from the streets of Annapolis that many came to know his real name.
Now, to thank him for his years of hard work, the city is rallying around him as the Annapolis man’s health suffers and his family works to take care of him.
Smith received a citation from Gov. Larry Hogan’s office last week for his “legendary reputation as a fast-walking, arm-waving, always smiling beloved Annapolis icon who has been devoted to keeping the streets clean.”
A trust has been put together in his name with thousands of dollars gathered by his Facebook fans.
And soon, a mural may guarantee he smiles on West Street forever.
Since Smith hasn’t been seen around West Street for the last couple of years, fans have posted in the more than 13,000 strong Facebook group asking if he’s OK. Knowing that Smith is developmentally disabled, many were concerned.
Smith’s sister, Rosemary Graves, said he stopped walking about two years ago after police officers had to return Smith to her home after a few falls. He’s been living with her for the last nine years, and she now cares for him round-the-clock in her Glen Burnie home.
“I wouldn’t see him in a nursing home for nothing in this world. I don’t want to see nothing happen with him,” Graves said.
Arthritis and age have gotten the best of him, but Smith’s niece Rosie Goddard-Grant knew Annapolis hadn’t forgotten their Walking Man. As it’s gotten increasingly more difficult and costly to take care of him, she turned to the Facebook group for help.
“I said, ‘God please send me some help’, and God sent me Jessica,” Goddard-Grant said.
Jessica Berdeil, like so many others, grew up waving to Smith when she saw him on West Street. So when she heard his family needed help, she was happy to step in. The fundraiser she helped them set up on Facebook last month earned $23,000 — skyrocketing past its $200 goal in just a few days.
“It wasn’t a hard push,” Berdeil said. “All you had to say was ‘It’s for Carlester Smith’ and everyone said, ‘I’m in.’… And during the pandemic, that speaks to how respected and admired he really is.”
Carol Lagundo started an Amazon wishlist to help Smith’s family with supplies, which was nearly wiped clean by the Naval Academy Class of 2006.
“Carlester is synonymous with Annapolis,” Lagundo said. “So many people know Carlester. They’ve never met him but they know him.”
Graves said before people knew she needed help caring for Smith, she used to sit up at night worrying. Now, she said they’re both doing alright. He spends the time he’d normally be walking watching old television shows, a couple of his favorites being “Gunsmoke” and “The Andy Griffith Show.”
“It makes you want to cry. We’re so blessed,” Graves said.
Berdeil wants younger generations to know Smith, even if they never got to see him walk. To do, that she’s raising money for a mural of him to be painted by Annapolis artist Comacell Brown on the side of Pinky’s West Street Liquors.
“Annapolis wants to see him,” Berdeil said. “They want something bigger.”
HOW TO HELP
“Hurricane” Kevin Lebling has organized other Annapolis musicians including Michael Mchenry, Jimi Haha, Mac and Blue, Moonstone, Duan and Patrick, Carl Corse, Michael K, Krunchy Funknstein and Parris Lane to play the Facebook Live event “Walk With Me — Carlester Mural Fundraiser” on June 22. The Facebook event can be found at bit.ly/3fmLTQg.
Check donations for his mural can be addressed to P.O. Box 5736 Annapolis, MD 21403, and made payable to “ACF/Carlester mural.” Donations are tax-deductible.
The Amazon Wishlist for Smith can be found at amzn.to/3cZWIWV.
Donations to help care for him can be sent to Rosie Goddard-Grant at 1324 Burlington Drive, Odenton, MD 21113, or to her PayPal at Rosie1220@hotmail.com.