A guardian 'Angel' Guard: After decades of ushering schoolchildren across Baltimore streets, Angeline Sudano, 74, has decided it's time to retire.

June 20, 1996|By Dana Hedgpeth | Dana Hedgpeth,SUN STAFF

Time has done what swollen feet, backaches, downpours and freezing temperatures couldn't -- Angeline Sudano, a crossing guard for 30 years at Caroline and Gough streets, is retiring.

At 74, she's eligible for retirement, and she's taking it. Today, the last day of school for city children, she will walked gingerly to her corner for the last time.

"She's been out here every day all the years that I've been coming to school," said Craig Howard, a fourth-grader at City Springs Elementary School. "She's always really nice and kind to everybody that passes through here.

"Sometimes she fusses at us for running around, but I know she's just watching out for us," he said. "Knowing she won't be there blowing her whistle at us or keeping her eyes on us anymore is hard to imagine."

Sudano -- known to most as "Angel" -- has guided the students of City Springs Elementary in Southeast Baltimore for most of her career.

She gave children tissues for runny noses, wished them luck on tests and sewed buttons on their coats.

She even welcomed the three little squirrels that hop through her intersection.

To parents and residents, she was a confidante and a smiling face. She offered remedies for the common cold and exchanged her old-fashioned Italian recipes for fried bread.

She has been a landmark of the corner, just like the nearby community center on Gough Street and the former fire station on Caroline Street, residents say. Few can remember the corner without Sudano, who lives in Little Italy and walks the five blocks to her post every day.

"She's concerned not just about crossing the children safely, but about the people of the neighborhood," said Mary Knox, 58, who lives on Caroline Street. "It's so inspiring to just be able to share a few words with her and see her smiling face.

"She asks me each morning how I'm doing, and she really means it," she said. "She's just what her name says -- an angel."

For Sudano, who is the oldest of 10, the children who crossed her intersection were like the ones she never had.

"You get to know all their names, go to their funerals and send them cakes," she said. "The children need a lot of help. They need to be loved, taken care of and they've got to be understood. I really love each of them."

As she leaves, she reminisces about how the corner has changed during her tenure. There was the family that grew pink and white petunias every year, and there was the fire station on Gough Street years ago that threw holiday parties for the children.

'I miss those days'

But now she worries about decay. "Over there was a family who just kept their house so neat. The windows always had cute little curtains in them and I'd sit out and talk with [the family] while I waited for the children to come," she said as she stared at the brick building across the street. "Sometimes I miss those days when folks would come out at lunch and talk for hours."

Paper and empty cans now litter that curb.

She warns the children each day, as they walk to school, to resist peer pressure to abuse drugs and alcohol.

"Don't look at the piles of trash you see on the streets," she shouts to two young girls as they cross the intersection. "You can do better, just keep working hard and go to school. And most importantly, keep your head up."

She herself kept up appearances. She appeared for work every day in her crossing guard hat, white gloves and orange vest. And although she has traded the black skirt of her uniform for pants, she still wore her black tie. And then there was the white shirt -- starched enough to pass inspection as an officer on this former member of the Army's auxiliary corps for women.

'Good days and bad days'

"Most people think crossing guards don't do much of anything, but it's got its good days and bad days just like any other job," Sudano said, as she waved a mother and child across. "The uniform means more than just putting your life out on the street to wave people across. I've crossed mothers, grandmothers and their children, saved cats the kids have put in the sewer as a prank and fussed at drivers for speeding through here."

Perfect attendance

Even with bone spurs in her feet and operations for breast cancer, Sudano didn't miss a day on the job. She was there at 7: 45 a.m. in any weather. When the temperature dropped to 40 degrees and below, she pulled out her long underwear to pile on layers under her pants. And in the 90-degree days of summer heat and humidity, she still wore her black tie and hat, tied in a tight knot under her chin.

Friends and co-workers agree Sudano's style of blowing her whistle at anyone who crosses her path was a part of the old school of crossing guards.

"Angel's got a way to do everything on that block and she's been around a long time to establish herself there," said Henrietta Sheffer, a crossing guard at Caroline and Pratt streets. "I've seen her come out there on days wearing her bedroom slippers just because her feet were aching her so bad.

"She's exactly what this job is all about -- dedication."

Pub Date: 6/20/96

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