Streetwise `Mr. Frank' on guard for Crofton Woods schoolchildren


September 11, 2001|By Nancy Gallant | Nancy Gallant,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

THE MAN they call "Mr. Frank" takes his post about 8 a.m. each weekday. In a crisp white hat, bright red-and-yellow vest and orange gloves, Frank Welsh sends a clear signal to passing cars that neighborhood children are going to school, so it's time to be extra careful.

Last week, Welsh began his fourth year as crossing guard for the Crofton Parkway-Tarrytown Avenue intersection, near Crofton Woods Elementary School.

Sometimes, drivers make faces at him when he goes into the street to slow them down.

"But I don't care," he said. "I am here for the children."

Crofton Police Chief Larry Schweinsburg summarized the feelings of the Crofton Woods school community when he described Welsh.

"Good man," Schweinsburg said. "He does a good job."

A few years ago, Welsh retired from his career in the dairy industry. He had worked in milk-bottling plants for Safeway, Sealtest and Harvey dairies. A resident of Crofton, he enjoys spending time with his family, especially his wife and his grandchildren.

He saw an advertisement for school crossing guards and thought he might explore the idea. Within a short time, he was given the spot near Crofton Woods and has been part of the neighborhood ever since.

He has a smile and a wave for mothers and fathers as they pass on their way to work or school. Bus drivers, police officers and joggers all have a greeting for him.

But Welsh's mission is to watch the children. He might be talking with a mom or a small child, but he is always watching for a youngster who might be coming along the sidewalk toward the intersection.

And he has a good word for every child who goes by. "OK, kids," he'll say, and "How are you doing?" and "You have a good day."

When one little girl passes, she looks up at him and he reaches for his watch to tell her the time and assures her that she won't be late. Another little girl is met with a "Happy Birthday" on her special day.

The neighborhood parents appreciate "Mr. Frank."

"We like him and we trust him," said Roberta Harris. "He knows all the kids' names."

Eileen Denman said she feels secure knowing that her children begin their school day under his watchful eye.

Karen McGuire remembers one morning when her son had been dawdling and was late heading off to school. As she watched the boy approach the intersection, she saw that Welsh had gotten into his car and started for home. But as soon as Welsh saw the child, he turned the car around, went back to the intersection, put on his uniform vest and gloves, and guided the youngster across the street.

For him, safety doesn't have a closing time.

He remembers one little boy who tried to run into the street before he was given permission.

"I had to holler at him," he said. The boy was careful to wait until Welsh was sure the intersection was safe.

He recalls another boy who pestered the younger children as they walked. He pulled the boy aside and asked, "Would you like it if someone treated you that way?"

"Well, no," replied the boy.

"Then why do you do it to them?" Welsh asked.

The little boy looked abashed, then thoughtful. And he stopped teasing the other kids.

When he began the job, Welsh wasn't sure what it would be like. But after awhile, he says, "Everybody got to know me. They got to know I wouldn't take any foolishness."

And he became part of the neighborhood family.

He sums up his philosophy: "I try to treat the kids the way I treated my own."

Women's group to meet

The Christian German-American Women's Group will hold its first monthly meeting of the new season at noon Monday in the Chapel Center at Fort Meade. Margarete Johnson will speak to the group about "What God Means to Me."

After Johnson's presentation, a German luncheon will be served. Pianist Heidi Zech will accompany the group as it sings German songs.

Membership is open to women interested in the German language and culture. Information: Irene Kucholik, 301-621-7862 or Karin Jackson, 301-855-6877.

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