Small Things Make a Difference, Says Afternoon Crossing Guard

March 22, 2023

Art Smith recounts that he was so inspired by his current job that “I decided I’m going to make a positive difference in somebody’s life every day, even if it’s just with a smile. And it’s so easy.”

Smith, 84, is in a prime position to make that happen. He is the afternoon crossing guard for three Bedford school buildings covering pre-kindergarten through eighth grade. The morning crossing guard is Lori Bellino. They succeeded the legendary Cathy Young, who retired in June 2020 after 34 years.

Wednesday is School Crossing Guard Appreciation Day, according to the commonwealth’s Department of Transportation.

Smith, who worked for years as a design coordinator and construction supervisor, is on duty for about 90 minutes every afternoon, beginning at John Glenn Middle School, then outside Lt. Job Lane School, and finishing at Eleazer Davis School.

“I’ve lived in Bedford forever,” he laughed – actually only since 1942. He went through the Union School (now Town Center) and Bedford Junior High (now Town Hall) before joining one of the last groups of Bedford students to attend Concord High School.

About two years ago, he was interviewed for the position by former Police Chief Robert Bongiorno and former Sgt. Jeff Wardwell, who asked him for some credentials. Smith pulled out a Union School Safety Patrol certificate from 1949.

Besides stopping traffic and ensuring safe crossing for students and others, Art Smith also focuses on “helping the buses get in and out.” Staff photo by Wayne Braverman

Smith has a long and varied record of town service, including several terms on the Conservation Commission. He also was one of the original members of CERT – the Citizens Emergency Response Team – and as such received emergency first-aid training.

At his afternoon shift, he stations himself primarily in the street – “They hired me as a crossing guard so I stand in the middle.” Besides stopping traffic and ensuring safe crossing for students and others, Smith also focuses on “helping the buses get in and out.”

Although more than a half-century has passed since Smith’s more than nine years of service in the Navy and the Army Reserve, “I still know how to express myself if I don’t want you to do something.” But even if he has to admonish a motorist or a child, it’s never in anger; “I look at it as a teaching moment.”

“I worry about the degree to which middle school kids look at their phones” while walking, Smith commented. But whenever he has to raise his voice, “I’ll follow up and thank them for paying attention.”

Smith said most of his contact with kids and parents is casual – “we make eye contact and I say, ‘Hi.’ I’ve gotten to know a lot of the kids and the parents,” some of whom were his two sons’ friends growing up. A lot of parents are invested in their children’s safe crossing, he said. 

Sometimes it’s cold or rainy, but Smith again referred to his Navy years. “I know how to dress,” he said, noting that the town supplies crossing guards with the reflectorized vest and uniform.

He was on the disabled list for several weeks with a hip fracture and now is accompanied on the job by a silver metal walker that helps with balance and mobility.

Even as he stations the appliance by his side during the detail, Smith said he has received few comments. “Well, there was one woman who drove by and, through the open window, said, “We’re so proud of you doing this every day.” Smith asked her why and she replied, “You’re old – and disabled.” In 2021 he was serenaded with Christmas songs by some Lane School students.

Smith acknowledged that he has seen a lot of changes and transitions in the town over the decades. But the defining quality is “still the great people – it’s still Bedford.”

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Barbara Aldorisio
March 26, 2023 2:26 pm

Right on Art…we are a tough Old…
Do it Babs…

Mercedes Kane
March 23, 2023 9:01 am

You may be ‘old and disabled’ but you’re looking fine! Good to see you still making a difference.
Merc Kane

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