Veteran Pelham crossing guard Bill Park retires — again
“I really think it’s time to put my feet up a bit more.”
So said Bill Park, who has been coaxed back into retirement — his fourth — from a school crossing guard role he has held for seven years at the corner of Highway 20 and Haist Street.
At age 76, Park and his wife of 54 years, Patricia, plan to downsize and move into a condo in East Fonthill.
Prior to the crossing guard gig, he served for five years in the Royal Marines in the UK, then came home to join the Niagara Regional Police Service, rising to the rank of inspector. After that, he worked as an instructor at the Robert Land Academy, a boys’ boarding school in Wellandport, and when that got old, he established a small business servicing computers.
A gathering of friends and co-workers assembled at Fire Station 1 last Friday to bid Park farewell.
“They’re a great bunch of people, the crossing guards,” said Park. “We’re the bottom rung on that ladder that keeps our children safe.”
Pelham Fire Chief Bob Lymburner extended his thanks to those gathered.
“You’re never going to get rich as a school crossing guard, or a volunteer firefighter for that matter,” he said. “It’s something that you do because you love the community and you want to contribute, and your role involves protecting one of our most valuable assets: our children. I just want thank all our crossing guards for standing out there through crappy weather, doing a great job.”
Councillor Wayne Olson, himself a former Pelham crossing guard, spoke on behalf of Town Council and the Mayor, addressing Park as “Captain Bill,” a reference to their joint time spent in the military. The two met briefly in Norway 50 years ago during a NATO training exercise called Northern Express, when Olson was serving with the Canadian Armed Forces, and Park the British Royal Marines. They reconnected in Fonthill, and have been pals ever since.
“There was a familiar, commanding presence to this guy,” recalled Olson. “I knew from his purposeful walk that he was an old soldier. Bill is a tremendous example of service to the community.”
Park, in his comments, referred to his friend Olson in jest as “Major Damage,” and “General Confusion.”
“For years it was ‘Queen and Country first,’ and now it will be just one Queen I serve,” said Park. He expects to continue with his model airplane hobby in to the future.
Reflecting back on how he got involved with the crossing guards, Park said he was riding his bicycle around town, thinking of volunteer opportunities that might be a fit for his personality. He considered the hospital and the library, but a chance meeting with bylaw officer Craig Genesse prompted Park to apply for a vacant crossing guard position, which set him on his present path.
Park gave a “tip of the hat” to Lymburner and his crew.
“I’ve worked for a lot of organizations, and rarely have I come across one that values its people as much as this one,” said Park. “It’s got to be because we work out of a fire hall, because in all honesty, I don’t get that same reaction from crossing guards in other municipalities within the Niagara Region. It’s got to be that ethos. The fire department looks after people every day. We crossing guards have always felt a part of your team.”