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84-year-old woman honored by the City of Seattle for covering up graffiti

84-year-old Marie Kjeldtoft spends her days painting over graffiti in Seattle neighborhoods.

SEATTLE — Marie Kjeldtoft points to a black scrawl on the concrete in Seattle's Ballard neighborhood.

"This is a new one, a brand new one," she said. "It looks horrible. Shame on them. I hate to say it, but I've come to expect it."

Kjeldtoft doesn't take kindly to people who go around spray painting her city.

But instead of complaining, the 84-year-old is doing something about it.

"It's better to be part of the solution than part of the problem," she said with a confident smile.

Every week for the past three years Marie has grabbed her paint bucket and headed for the Ballard Bridge to paint over the graffiti that stains Seattle. 

She makes mental notes of graffiti she sees in other parts of the city, as well, and returns with her roller to make it disappear.

"It's just a good deed," she said. 

As she paints over new tags in Ballard, Kjeldtoft says she's disappointed that people would choose to deface such a beautiful city. 

"Why do they do it?" She wondered. "Don't kids have more to do? More purpose in life?"

The City of Seattle provides Kjeldtoft with the paint and she finds inspiration as she slaps coats of gray paint on the sides of buildings and bridges.

"It looks so pretty when it's done and it all blends in because it's the same color," she mused.

It takes a special person to see the beauty in the drab gray paint, and to take on a problem most of us simply drive by and try to ignore.

"It really is like therapy to me because all 5 kids have left the nest, my husband had a brain injury. I need to have something positive. I love doing this," Kjeldtoft said.

The City of Seattle spends nearly $4 million per year cleaning up graffiti. 

Kjeldtoft doesn't ask for a penny but she is finally getting the recognition she deserves with a surprise visit from a representative of the Mayor of Seattle proclaiming December 8, 2022 "Marie Kjeldtoft Day"

"We know that you've cleaned graffiti on your own time with no recognition sought, with no money sought, but today we're hoping to give you a little bit of glory," said Andrew Myerberg, Seattle's director of special projects.

"Honey, that is so precious. So precious," responded Marie, her family and friends on hand to applaud her accomplishments. "I thank you. I thank you so much. I really love doing it. You all should try it!"

That's what Kjeldtoft hope others will do when they see her story.

Even at 84 she has no plans to stop her weekly routine -- and she wants the taggers to know it.

"I'm hoping my work discourages the graffiti people because it's not gonna last long if I see it."

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