QUINCY, Ill. — A familiar face for anyone who attended Madison School during the past two decades, crossing guard George Caspermeyer is hanging up his stop sign at the end of the school year.
The retired-Moorman Manufacturing fork lift driver has guided kids to safety across the street as they walk home from school for 20 years. He has become a fixture at Madison Elementary School on the corner of 25th and Hampshire. When Madison closes next year, transitioning students into the new buildings, there will be less demand for crossing guards.
“It gives me something to do,” Caspermeyer said. “It’s been a good ride.”
After spending his first year at Adams Elementary School, Caspermeyer has spent the subsequent 19 at Madison. He’ll admit that at 78, he walks a little slower now than when he began.
“There ain’t no running any more for me,” he joked.
Some students get high-fives as they cross, while others get hugs. He calls out to most by name, but every child and parent gets a greeting of some sort.
“You have to learn their names in kindergarten,” he said.
He hasn’t learned and retained all their names, but he knows most of them.
“Wait for your sister,” he called out to a boy preparing to cross one afternoon in September.
“You have any homework tonight?” he asked a student named David as he held out his hand for a high-five.
David said he didn’t and rushed home.
“They’re never in a hurry in the morning,” Caspermeyer said, “but in the afternoon, they’re ready to go.”
When it came time for retirement two decades ago, he knew he had to keep busy. He’d always liked kids — he and his wife, Judy, had four of their own — and being a crossing guard seemed to be the right fit. It’s also fits his schedule well, working for half an hour or so two times a day. He heads straight for the golf course on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays to catch up with his friends on the back nine. He has seen hundreds of kids pass through Madison. One family, the Seamans, have nine children, and he has been the crossing guard for each at one time or another. The family invited him and Judy over for dinner last weekend, and he planned to take a picture with all nine children, who range in grade levels from kindergarten to senior.
“Most people don’t do that,” Caspermeyer said of the dinner invitation. “This family is exceptional.”
Delene Seaman described George as “delightful,” noting that he has gone above and beyond the call of duty. She described how he has encouraged her children when they “dawdled,” cheered them up by offering pleasant greetings and showed genuine interest in them.
He has even “offered me reports on how they’re doing in my absence,” she said.
On the first and second Tuesday of the month, when he leaves the school, Caspermeyer goes to volunteer at Blessing Hospital, picking people up in the shuttle.
“I wouldn’t know how to act if I didn’t have anything to do,” he said.
Constant activity keeps Caspermeyer young. Not a day goes by that he doesn’t have something on his agenda. His Catholic faith keeps him optimistic.
“You get up every morning, and you better make every day count,” he said. “When you get out of bed and your feet hit the floor, you better say, ‘Lord, thanks for another day.'”
Reflecting on his 78 years, he describes himself only as “blessed.” He and Judy started dating when they were juniors in high school, and they married at 21. Fifty-nine years later, they’re now great-grandparents. Two of his children were valedictorians, and each of them found good careers in their fields.
“I can’t believe how fast these weeks go by,” he said. “It’s been a wonderful ride.”
This story has been corrected to indicate that the crossing guard was speaking in September, not on Thursday.
Source: The Quincy Herald-Whig, http://bit.ly/2xohvSP
Information from: The Quincy Herald-Whig, http://www.whig.com
This is an AP-Illinois Exchange story offered by The Quincy Herald-Whig.