Sunday, December 17, 2017
News Roundup

At 83, 'Harry the Crossing Guard' will escort kids for the last time

CLEARWATER

In August when Clearwater students return to school, a familiar face at the intersection of Palmetto Street and Highland Avenue won't be there for the first time in almost two decades.

Crossing guard Harry Aldrich, a tall, lean sentry at the same intersection for 17 years, is retiring today, the last day of school. He is 83.

Every school day he suited up in a blue-collared shirt, khaki shorts and a star-shaped belt buckle that belonged to his brother-in-law, former Pinellas County Sheriff Don Genung.

As he escorted them across the street, Aldrich always said "good morning" or a simple "hello" to the elementary and middle school students from Clearwater Fundamental Middle, Clearwater Intermediate School and Sandy Lane Elementary.

The children know him as "Harry the Crossing Guard." They say he's kind and helpful.

"He's the nicest person that I ever met," said Allayah Fields, 10. "He helps people go across the street because there's a lot of traffic here."

"He's never grumpy," said Tyrell Nichols, 14.

Harry the Crossing Guard keeps an air pump in his trunk so he can pump up flat bicycle tires for young bike riders. He's even been known to take a broken bike home and fix it while the child is at school.

That sort of kindness and helpfulness has been a hallmark of both of Aldrich's careers. He ran a TV repair shop for 24 years, retiring in 1990, but he still repairs his neighbors' TVs just to help out.

Aldrich grew up on a dairy farm in McDonough, N.Y., the town where he met the love of his life, Daretta, or June as she prefers to be called. Aldrich was 19. June was 16.

June fell ill with rheumatoid fever and moved to Florida for the warmer climate. For two years they sent letters to each other, and she visited him in New York in the summertime.

But by August 1950, Aldrich couldn't take it anymore. He moved to Florida, too, and the couple got married that November. Within three months, Aldrich was drafted. He was stationed in Germany during the Korean War and returned home in December 1952.

Her husband has always been a committed man, June said, rarely missing a day of work.

"I never like to call off," he said, even on rainy days, which are not his favorites.

Harry's granddaughter Kristin Vernon said she remembers the day when her "Papaw," as all 12 grandchildren call him, asked about becoming a crossing guard.

When she was a child, he walked her to school every morning, handing her off to a crossing guard when they reached the last intersection. She remembers he asked the crossing guard one day about getting a crossing guard job himself. He liked to stay busy.

"I'm used to always doing something," he said. "I just enjoy it — the work and being around younger people helps me forget my age."

Aldrich began work as a crossing guard in 1993 but was posted at other crossings until 1995, when he was assigned to the Palmetto-Highland intersection. He was named Crossing Guard of the Year for 2007-2008. Clearwater schools crossing guard coordinator Manny Diaz said Aldrich was chosen because he stood out.

"He is always on time and never late. No complaints — not since I've been here," Diaz said. "He's always at his post."

He said Aldrich will be honored with a plaque today.

"He always did his job. He took his job seriously," Diaz said. "He enjoyed working with the kids, like most of the crossing guards."

Aldrich said he's retiring because he and June want to visit their children and do some traveling. They want to see New York again.

But these last days of school have been bittersweet.

Aldrich is looking forward to retirement, "but when school starts, I'll be wondering if I should have retired," he said. "I'll miss the kids."

Diedra Rodriguez can be reached at (727) 445-4154 or [email protected] To write a letter to the editor, go to tampabay.com/letters.

 
Comments
Bucs-Falcons: Things to watch in Monday’s 8:30 p.m. game

Bucs-Falcons: Things to watch in Monday’s 8:30 p.m. game

TAMPA — The Bucs and Falcons have each won three straight games on Monday nights as they face each other on a national platform tonight at Raymond James Stadium.How can Tampa Bay continue its streak and stop Atlanta’s? It won’t be easy, but given the...
Updated: 15 minutes ago

Bitcoin futures begin trading on CME, price little changed

NEW YORK — Another security based on the price of bitcoin, the digital currency that has soared in value and volatility this year, began trading on the Chicago Mercantile Exchange on Sunday. The CME Group, which owns the exchange, opened up bitcoin f...
Updated: 16 minutes ago

Woman shot and killed in apparent drive-by shooting in Clearwater

CLEARWATER — A woman was shot to death Sunday night in an apparent drive-by shooting, according to Clearwater police.Authorities said they received an initial call at 8:19 p.m. originating from 800 Belleair Road. The shooting is believed to have occu...
Updated: 1 hour ago
Bucs fans call for Jon Gruden — why was he fired to begin with?

Bucs fans call for Jon Gruden — why was he fired to begin with?

TAMPA — The beers and the "love ya, bros" were flowing Saturday night at the Hooters in Tampa. Jon Gruden, who will be inducted into the Bucs Ring of Honor at halftime of tonight’s home game against the Falcons, worked the room, greeting family, frie...
Updated: 1 hour ago
Fennelly: Jon Gruden was one hard-working bro

Fennelly: Jon Gruden was one hard-working bro

TAMPA — It’s ridiculous that it took this long to give Jon Gruden a night all his own, given the nights he gave Bucs fans. But it will happen this evening at Raymond James Stadium, a salute to the thermonuclear source of that Super Bowl season, that ...
Updated: 1 hour ago
Massachusetts rolls 100-foot-long joint; McCain likely to miss tax bill vote; Cherokee Nation’s fear of losing heritage drives opioid lawsuit; more in U.S. news

Massachusetts rolls 100-foot-long joint; McCain likely to miss tax bill vote; Cherokee Nation’s fear of losing heritage drives opioid lawsuit; more in U.S. news

Massachusetts Rolling a fat one — 100 feet longMarijuana aficionados have rolled a 100-foot-long joint. The effort was led by Boston-based cannabis club and advocacy group Beantown Greentown during an exhibition of pro-marijuana vendors and supporter...
Updated: 3 hours ago
Trump says he isn’t considering firing Mueller

Trump says he isn’t considering firing Mueller

WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump said Sunday that he is not considering firing special counsel Robert Mueller even as his administration was again forced to grapple with the growing Russia inquiry that has shadowed the White House for much of his ...
Updated: 3 hours ago
Friendly competition

Friendly competition

 
Updated: 3 hours ago
Sudden power outage brings Atlanta airport to a standstill; expected to be restored by midnight

Sudden power outage brings Atlanta airport to a standstill; expected to be restored by midnight

ATLANTA — A sudden power outage brought the world’s busiest airport to a standstill Sunday, grounding scores of flights in Atlanta just days before the start of the Christmas travel rush. However, authorities said that electricity should be restored ...
Updated: 3 hours ago

More than 300 cruise passengers fall ill with stomach virus

PORT EVERGLADES — More than 300 passengers on a cruise ship that docked at Port Everglades fell ill with a stomach virus. The Naples Daily News reported that the Royal Caribbean Cruises Limited’s ship Independence docked Saturday in Florida reported ...
Updated: 3 hours ago