Popular school crossing guard retires after nearly a decade
GREENVILLE, S.C. (AP) — Felissa Latimore was extra emotional as she stood near the corner of East North and Prescott Streets waving at cars that passed.
“I know I’m going to cry,” she said.
For nine school years, Latimore has been an animated addition to the busy intersection — waving enthusiastically and sharing blessings with everyone who passes, many of whom wave and say hello back.
Latimore is known as “Miss Metra” by the students she guides each morning and afternoon.
Arguably Greenville County’s most recognized crossing guard, she hung up her uniform on June 5 after nearly a decade of work that goes well beyond helping children cross the street.
“Where are your glasses today?” she asked one student as he crossed E. North, “and your ID?”
Latimore knows these students. She uses the 30-or-so seconds they spend in crosswalks to check on how their day is going and remind them to be good and be themselves.
She knows the adults that pass in vehicles too — maybe not by name, but she recognizes their faces and sometimes even their pets.
“There are dogs I see on their way to the groomer and even they recognize me,” she said.
“Look she rolled the window down for her baby,” Latimore said pointing to a passing SUV with a small hand waving from the open back window.
“Have a blessed one,” she shouted.
Latimore shares that blessing with each car that passes. She is deeply spiritual and believes it’s been her calling to be a light for everyone she sees during her shift.
“It’s encouragement,” she said. “You never know what people are going through.
“It lifts my spirits up, because it’s like we’re feeding off one another,” she said. “It’s like I got you, I got your back, you got mine.”
In the quiet moments between lines of vehicles, Latimore says quick prayers of gratitude.
It’s all part of a spirit-filled routine on a job she never expected but now believes was part of God’s ultimate plan for her life.
In 2007, she was looking for a job with a flexible schedule that would work with her young daughter’s school schedule.
She initially tried working in the school cafeteria, but said it wasn’t a good fit.
Around that time, the crossing guard at East North Street suggested she consider applying for a guard position.
Latimore told her she’d pray over it.
A few years later, Latimore was with her daughter after school when she heard students who’d gotten out to the intersection early asking who was going to help them cross the street.
“I was a concerned parent,” Latimore said.
She took matters into her own hands, tapping the pedestrian button to stop traffic and walking carefully to the middle of the intersection where she signaled the kids safely across.
The next day, Latimore received a gift of chocolates from the school’s regular guard as a thank you.
It wasn’t long after that when Latimore put on her uniform for the first time and began her career as one of Greenville County’s most recognizable employees.
She said her signature wave began on the first day when she made eye contact and smiled at a passing driver. He waved and she waved back.
“It just felt good to see him smile,” she said. “It’s about encouragement. I feel the spirit out here.”
Latimore said she felt love from passing drivers from day one, but especially in 2014 when she had a health scare and was hospitalized for several days.
“They said they’d line up on both sides of the road ready to sign a petition to get me back,” Latimore said when the community realized where she was, some even called the hospital to check on her.
“It’s been a blessing,” she said.
As she hangs up her uniform, there’s no doubt Latimore will continue to think about these children and the many faces she’s used to seeing.
She doesn’t yet know what’s ahead, but just like when she took on this job, she expects to be obedient to what she feels God has planned for her next role.
Information from: The Greenville News, http://www.greenvillenews.com