After suffering a stroke, David Alt, 74, better known as the Park Heights Gnome, was released from the hospital on June 3. The same day, he was seen at the end of his driveway, giving his signature wave to passing vehicles.
“Ain’t going to hold me back,” Alt said.
Alt’s stroke and other maladies have made completing his gnome duties more difficult. He sometimes feels pins and needles down his left arm, and the medication he takes for vertigo blurs his vision. As a result, he is not as quick to wave to passers-by as he once was.
Nonetheless, he still plans to walk down his 500-foot driveway for the simple pleasure of waving.
“I’m here until they take me out in a body bag,” Alt said.
Alt has been waving to traffic since 2009; he is difficult to miss standing along a stretch of Park Heights Avenue near Bais Yaakov School for Girls, sporting overalls and a bushy beard. He is a fixture of Park Heights, and his nine-day absence was felt.
“One [woman] stopped and said she hadn’t noticed me around for a while,” Alt said. “She was worried what happened to me because I’m always out there.”
His enduring presence makes him the subject of local myth and, he points out, the recipient of gifts. Commuters — often from Bais Yaakov — give him cards, food and drinks when they pass by.
Although his doctors estimate this is his second stroke — he may have had one in 2011 — Alt does not plan to change his routine.
“As long as I’m healthy enough and the weather isn’t too abominable,” he said, “I’ll be out there during the school year, Monday through Friday.”
James Whitlow is an intern at the Baltimore Jewish Times.