After eight decades, Helen Butler isn’t slowing down as she mans her post as a crossing guard for Washington Elementary School, a position she has had for 27 years.
Butler escorts children across the railroad tracks at East Third Street and South Engineer Avenue twice a day. She has many fond memories of the children she’s watched over through the years, and she makes special treats for them during holidays.
“I enjoy working with the children,” she said Tuesday afternoon at her post. “I used to have more, I had 20 to 25 children from the Housing Authority before they started busing them. Sometimes the trains would be on the track, they would come quite regular then, and they would be on the track for 15 to 20 minutes.”
She added that she didn’t want the kids to be late for school so she would place as many as she could in her car and drive them a few blocks up Engineer Avenue to the school.
“I’d tell the principal why they were late,” she added. “I just enjoy my work.”
She would also be there for the children when it rained and snowed.
“We had deep snows then and I would put them in the car, what I could get in the car,” she said. “I would protect my children.”
She remembers standing in snow almost up to her knees. Butler said she stayed warm by wrapping up well. When she first took the position her late husband Thomas Butler drove her to the post.
“When I first got over there, I didn’t have a car,” she noted. “My husband worked at Lamy’s (Manufacturing Co.) and he would bring me.”
The crossing guard position works through the Sedalia Police Department, Butler said. She added that all of her supervisors have been good to her, calling them her “buddies” as she reminisced about Cindy Harrell, John Rice, Larry Ward and David Woolery.
On Tuesday, Butler’s grandson, Chris Butler, of Sedalia, was at her post. Chris, who is now a family and community outreach specialist with Pettis County Community Partnership, remembered coming with his grandmother as a small child.
“I think my grandmother is wonderful,” he added. “She’s done a lot. I remember my grandmother would make, every student who came through here, candy for Easter. She would get them little presents for Christmas, she would pass out candy for Valentine’s day (and) she would have enough for each.”
“I would bring him along with me when his mother was working,” Butler said. “He would come to work with me everyday. Chris and me spent many days over here.
“Sometimes we would take a walk through the Housing Authority to come to work and sometimes we’d come up Washington (Avenue) and then come straight up the tracks,” she added.
In 1999, Butler spent time in the hospital due to a stroke.
“It happened right at Valentine’s Day,” she said. “The (SPD) officers came and did my job for me. Then all that day they took and advertised over KDRO (radio) a dedication to me. They gave that day to me … it was my day.
“The years I have worked over here, I haven’t had a minute’s trouble ..,” she added. “They have all been good and they have been kind to me.”
Faith Bemiss can be reached at 530-0289 or @flbemiss.