A constant among school crossing guards

In 36 years, Doris Monroe has never taken a day off

June 15, 1999|By Zerline A. Hughes | Zerline A. Hughes,SUN STAFF

City crossing guard Doris Monroe could tell it was the last day of school. A familiar quiet -- many pupils apparently decided to begin summer vacation a day early -- was clearly present at Harlem Park Middle School yesterday. But that did not stop Monroe from assuming her post at North Gilmor Street and Harlem Avenue.

Miss Monroe, as she is affectionately called, has been a guard at the same corner for 36 years.

She has no intention of retiring soon.

She has guided two generations of families across the street to Harlem Park middle and elementary schools and has become a surrogate mother to hundreds of children.

She has never missed a day of work. Whether she set an attendance record could not be determined late yesterday, but Monroe has worked 6,480 days, the equivalent of more than 17 years nonstop. Her days spent at the corner add up to about 2 1/2 times Cal Ripken's 2,632 consecutive-game streak in baseball.

After starting her career in a sewing factory in 1953, she went to work as a food server in 1955 in the University of Maryland Hospital cafeteria. Monroe became a crossing guard in 1963 because she loves children, and she loves to talk. The mere thought of retiring, however, brings a rare silence.

"I don't know when I'll retire," said Monroe, 68. "As long as my health holds up, I'm going to continue."

She's developed such a bond with the community that she has an album at home with pictures of many of the children she has helped cross.

"She's seen me go from high school to graduate from junior college," said Brandon Wylie, 19, who used to live on Gilmor, near Monroe's post.

Monroe has collected numerous pins marking her tenure with the city and is afraid she won't have enough room on her jacket when she goes to pick up her next one, marking her 40th year on the job. She has garnered several awards from the school, including perfect attendance, best smile and outstanding commitment and dedication.

"She's really doing something to assist children on the corner by guiding them across the street," said Vivian Castain, managing assistant principal of Harlem Middle School.

Working in the morning before the start of school and at the close of classes, Monroe makes sure she's at her post promptly so she won't miss any youngsters.

"I love children," she said. "They make my day. A lot don't get the love at home. On this corner, I treat them all alike."

Pub Date: 6/15/99

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