Two Christmases ago, Mary Dickerson got a light blue coat, a gift from the parents of the kids she shepherds every school day across Curtis Rd. She’s wearing it now on a drizzly Friday, her stop sign raised imperiously. If you give the cars an inch, she says, they’ll take a mile. One has to be stern. She didn’t earn that coat by being a pushover.
“The kids are great, the parents are great, but the cars are nuts,” Mary says. “I’ve almost been hit several times. There have been times when I’ve thought about quitting because I’m sick of the cars. But then I worry about the kids.”
Mary’s greetings to the parents and children walking across the street are bright enough to fend off the February gloom. She’s been a crosswalk guard at Estes Elementary and Phillips Middle schools for five years, taking the job for the extra income and the light schedule. She’s had the chance to watch the kids grow up.
“You get very, very attached to the kids,” Mary says. “They get so they’ll talk to me. They’ll talk to me about their soccer games, if they won or lost. They’ll talk to me about how they got grounded. I have some of my kids who have moved on to high school, and they’ll come back and visit me.”
Mary makes sure the crossing is safe, but not dull. She brings treats for the kids, biscuits for the dogs, and she dons costumes and crazy hats for holidays. Earlier this month, she wore an Abe Lincoln top hat for Presidents’ Day, but her personal favorite is a snowman hat she wears whenever there’s a frosty forecast.
“I probably rev the kids up because I’m like, ‘It might snow tomorrow!’ just to add some excitement,” Mary says. “Life gets monotonous, so I just try to make things fun.”
When she’s not at her intersection, Mary is a bookkeeper for three different businesses, in addition to raising three daughters and six horses. Before this, she worked as an epidemiologist, experience she taps into to keep parents updated on any viruses going around.
“This woman is incredible,” says Liane Cantrell, whose children head to school using Mary’s crosswalk. “She risks her life morning and afternoon, five days a week, always with a smile on her face and with lots of love for the dozens of kids – and parents – she guides safely across the street.” TW