olumbus’ longest-running school crossing guard has turned in her stop sign and neon vest after 48½ years of helping kids cross the street.
Lora Mae Lowrey, who is 87, has been a familiar face at several school crossings in her nearly half-century as one of the Columbus Police Department’s crosswalk monitors.
She has finished up her decades-long run at CSA Fodrea at 2775 Illinois Ave., and a substitute, Linda Fox, now works at the Illinois and Hughes Street crosswalk in her place.
But the Fodrea kids haven’t forgotten Lowrey or her service.
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Students and staff, along with city officials, are planning a tribute to her at 1:30 p.m. Tuesday at the school gym.
City records show Lowrey’s hire in date as Oct. 26, 1966, although Lowrey herself is a little foggy on her first day as a crossing guard.
She does remember that she wanted a part-time job when her son and daughter, Kevin and Kathy, went off to school. She had decided to leave Arvin Industries to raise the children and was looking for something to keep her busy while they were in school.
More than 48 years later, she’s reluctantly giving up that part-time job.
“I like to be busy,” she said of accepting the school crossing guard job all those years ago. “I like being outdoors.”
Lowrey said she used to get up as early as 4 a.m. to give herself time for breakfast and to watch the news before heading out to the crosswalk and arriving by 7:30 a.m.
She was usually done a little after 8 a.m., and then had time to watch “The Young and The Restless” and “The Bold and The Beautiful” before heading back at 2:40 p.m. and staying until about 3:20 p.m.
Times would change over the decades, said Lisa Williams, the police department employee who supervises the crossing guards. But Williams rarely had to notify Lowrey because she always showed up early and stayed late, covering any changes the school corporation might need.
Lowrey has supervised crosswalks near St. Bartholomew Catholic School, Columbus East High School and at the Kentucky Street crosswalk for CSA Fodrea before moving to the Illinois and Hughes crosswalk where she finished up her run.
She had to bow out earlier this spring after a nasty bout of bronchitis and said it was time to stop after finding it difficult to get her energy back from the illness.
Battling the weather
School crossing guards are a hardy lot, who might rival postal service workers in the motto of serving in any kind of weather.
Lowrey, who weighs about 90 pounds, described the required stop sign as somewhat unwieldy in the wind at times, blowing her backward like a kite.
When it rained, she carried an umbrella, a flashlight and the stop sign, saying it could be quite a juggling act when the wind was blowing, rain or snow was falling, and children were crossing.
On really cold mornings, she would bundle up in multiple layers of jackets and coats.
She has been at the crossing guard job so long that she’s helping the next generation of kids she once helped across the street — and she remembers those students even though they are parents now.
Teachers and bus drivers who know Lowery always gave a friendly wave to her as they head into the parking lot.
Lowery is also well known to the CSA Fodrea school family because she lives on her own in their neighborhood and still drives.
She said she tries to limit her driving to going to the grocery store, allowing her daughter to take her to medical appointments.
Praise from the chief
Columbus Police Chief Jon Rohde will be among those paying tribute Tuesday to Lowrey’s dedication, noting that her service eclipses his life span by 11 years.
The crossing guard job isn’t an easy one, Rohde said — the guards deal with kids, drivers and every type of weather condition imaginable.
“I am sure she has built relationships with kids and even generations of kids,” Rohde said. “It is a huge deal.”
Retirement will be about relaxing a bit, working in the yard and staying as active as possible, Lowrey said. She plans to keep up with the news and to make sure she doesn’t miss any episodes of “Dancing with the Stars.”
And she’ll occasionally glance out her window in the neighborhood to watch the kids heading to and from school.
“It was just a good job,” Lowrey said. “And I liked it.”
What was popular on the day Lora Mae Lowrey started as a Columbus crossing guard?
On the radio: “Reach Out, I’ll Be There” by the Four Tops and “Last Train to Clarksville” by The Monkees.
At the movies: “The Fortune Cookie” directed by Billy Wilder
In the White House: Democratic President Lyndon B. Johnson
With the retirement of Lora Mae Lowrey after nearly 49 years, here are the next three Bartholomew Consolidated School Corp. crossing guards in terms of longevity.
Mary Bannister: 35½ years
Pam Billman: 29 years
Lynette Hall: 26 years
What: Celebration for Lora Mae Lowrey, who is retiring after 48½ years as a Columbus school crossing guard.
When: 1:30 p.m. Tuesday.
Where: CSA Fodrea School, 2775 Illinois Ave. Lowrey’s last crosswalk assignment was at Illinois and Hughes Street near the entrance to the school.