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School crossing guard moving on after 2 decades

October 15, 1998

Pat CarpenterBy JULIE E. GREENE / Staff Writer

photo: JOE CROCETTA / staff photographer




For 22 school years, it's been all about kids.

Through rain, snow, wind and heavy traffic, crossing guard Pat Carpenter has helped Washington County schoolchildren get home safely.

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On Wednesday - her last day on the job - "Miss Pat" or "Pat" received a plaque, six red roses, a large thank-you letter from second-graders and dozens of hugs and good wishes from Bester Elementary School walkers.

The harsh winters Carpenter has braved along with the county's approximately 34 other crossing guards has finally forced her to give up the job.

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"This is the hardest decision I've had to make," said Carpenter, 54, of Falling Waters, W.Va. After knee and hand surgeries, Carpenter said she needs a break from the cold.

Kmart, where she has worked part time at night, offered her a full-time job during the day and she accepted.

It means staying warm inside and being able to spend more time at home with her husband and her mother, who is 90 years old, Carpenter said.

Carpenter said she'll stay in touch with the kids, many of whom she sees in the electronics department at Kmart.

Besides helping kids cross South Potomac Street in front of Bester in the mornings and afternoons, Carpenter also helps Fountaindale Elementary School walkers cross Northern Avenue in the mornings.

On Wednesday morning, one saddened student at Fountaindale offered to put a chair in the middle of Northern Avenue and give Miss Pat a blanket to keep warm so she would stay on the job, Carpenter said.

The little girl even offered to hold Carpenter's stop sign for her.

Carpenter is good at making sure others stay warm, said Bester Principal Drenna Reineck.

Reineck said Carpenter keeps gloves and coats in her car trunk to give to children in need.

Carpenter said she buys gloves and hats at Kmart and gives away the coats her grandchildren have outgrown.

She said she has three sons, five grandchildren and is expecting her first great-grandchild in February.

"I'm going to miss you," fourth-grader Betty Pompell said as she threw her arms around Carpenter on her way home.

"I want you to go through school and do the best you can to learn," Carpenter told her.

Carpenter began her career as a crossing guard on Oct. 18, 1977, at Western Heights Middle School, when two of her children were there. She also was a crossing guard at Potomac Heights Elementary School and substituted for guards at many other schools, she said.

Just before school let out on Wednesday afternoon, Carpenter was surprised by a group including Schools Superintendent Herman Bartlett and Dodie Green, chairwoman of the school's safety committee.

"She does a very good job. She cares about the kids," Green said.

Walkers David Breakall, 7, Jesseica Lugo, 8, Cody Lowery, 7, Justin Adkins, 7, and Dennis Thompson, 7, presented Carpenter with a large thank-you card from the second grade.

"We will really miss you," the card ended.

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