Residents and drivers along Riverside Drive in Port Orange have no doubt seen Irene Dell.
Wearing a bright yellow safety vest, the smiling white-haired woman rides a three-wheel bicycle along Riverside and Ridgewood Avenue four or five times a week. She picks up aluminum cans and visits with many of her neighbors as she covers several miles on every ride.
Ms. Dell can also be seen working in her yard just off Riverside, tending the vegetables, herbs, pineapple and other fruits she has planted. She might also be mowing her yard, or even her neighbor’s yard.
“Sometimes we take turns mowing each other’s yard,” she said. “That’s what neighbors are for.”
Ms. Dell is 92 years old, but it’s hard to determine that when you visit with the cheerful, lively woman. She said she rides her bike and works in the yard “just for exercise.”
She bought the bicycle and started riding when she moved here in 1983 from Maryland. She didn’t ride for a while when her late husband Ottis was ill, but otherwise she has ridden that same bicycle, complete with baskets and an American flag, for 38 years. She hydrates herself with bay leaf tea and water flavored with apple slices and cinnamon.
“My doctor says to just ‘keep doing what you’re doing’ when I go in for a visit,” she laughed.
A retired seamstress, Ms. Dell said she mostly just sewed for family. She made matching dress suits for herself and her husband, and made “dress clothes” for other family members. And there is a lot of family. She was one of 16 children.
“I don’t know how my mom did it,” she said.
Four children are still living, including a younger sister who lives nearby, and brothers who live in Maryland and Delaware. She has numerous nieces, nephews and other family members who live near her in the Port Orange area.
“When the restaurants weren’t open (during the pandemic), we would just visit family nearby,” she said.
Ms. Dell had three children. Two are deceased, but her daughter, Karen Gaskins and her husband live with her.
Ms. Gaskins said with pride that her mom “loves working in the yard” – and riding that bike. Even the yard is a happy place, filled with flowers, plants and colorful pinwheels spinning in the river breeze.
Ms. Dell said she enjoys “getting out in the air and meeting people” when she is riding. She said, “People look out for me.”
Not every bike ride is a happy experience, however. She has been attacked by dogs a couple of times; once a neighbor down the road had to take her to the emergency room after a dog encounter. But usually her rides are enjoyable, and she said “picking up cans is just a hobby, but also gives me a little extra money.” She even makes unique little hats with “plates” cut from cans and crocheted into the hats. Some neighbors started bringing aluminum cans to her after seeing her bicycle basket filled with cans.
“I just love visiting with people,” Ms. Dell said, “And Riverside is busy with bikers.
“It’s important how nice people are,” she continued, smiling one of her frequent smiles. “There are a lot of good people in this world.”