Education

N.C. School Surprises Crossing Guard on His 100th Birthday

By The Associated Press — October 04, 2021 3 min read
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On his 100th birthday, crossing guard Thomas Faucette woke up at 3 a.m.

The World War II veteran had already celebrated with family and friends over the weekend. He didn’t know about the plans in motion.

A premonition — “just had a feeling,” he says — got him up early.

Some five hours later, Faucette grinned and doffed his cap to hundreds of Peck Elementary students in hand-decorated Happy Birthday hats.

They gathered outside with school and police department staff to show appreciation for Faucette, who has helped children cross the street for more than three decades and served the public for more years than many people live.

“He’s just a fantastic man,” said Cathy Robbins, a colleague with the police department, which oversees crossing guards stationed at local schools. “Sense of humor you would not believe.”

When school is in session Faucette monitors morning arrival and afternoon departure from a lawn chair at the corner of Florida and Vanstory streets.

He waits, stop sign at the ready, for children or other pedestrians who want to cross the street.

Before the pandemic, Faucette would cross about 10 students on a typical day.

Now, it’s more like one to six, his wife, Elizabeth Faucette, said.

Still, the students are his favorite part of being a crossing guard. He loves it when they holler to him or mess with him in a friendly way.

“It’s fun,” he said.

His wife of 51 years is a retired Peck Elementary teacher, who has also substituted at the school.

She sometimes comes along for her husband’s shifts, and gets to see him in action with the students.

“Usually, in the morning, he will tell them, ‘do good, have a good day,’ when they are crossing,” she said.

When the couple married in 1970, it marked a halfway point in his life.

Before marrying Elizabeth he grew up in Greensboro, played half-back at Dudley High School, moved to Washington, D.C., served in France and Germany in the U.S. Army in World War II, took a job with the Federal Trade Commission and moved back to Greensboro to care for his ailing mother while working for the U.S. Postal Service.

At age 72, Elizabeth Faucette is 28 years his junior.

She met him as a friend of her uncle’s and later got to know him better as a neighbor.

“It was more me pursuing him than him pursuing me,” she said.

The second half of Thomas Faucette’s life involved raising two children with Elizabeth and, after retiring from the post office in 1986, embracing a part-time career as a crossing guard in Greensboro.

He joined in 1988, according to the Greensboro Police Department. His first post was outside Bluford Elementary. He later switched to the streets near Peck, possibly around 2000 or so, Elizabeth Faucette said.

Peck principal Ashley Triplett said Faucette has been a steadfast presence.

“Rain, sleet, snow, ice, anything at all, he is out there,” she said. “Mr. Faucette is as consistent as the ringing of our school bells.”

When community members and other crossing guards let her know his 100th birthday was coming up, she knew she had to plan a celebration.

On Sept. 29, 100 of the children held two-dimensional “candles” made from brightly-colored construction paper that were nearly as big as some of the students.

A speaker blared pop tunes as the students waited for Faucette to walk from his corner to the front of the school.

Minutes earlier Faucette had accepted a plaque from Greensboro Police Chief Brian James in appreciation for his service with the department.

He was greeted at the school with a banner, balloons, $100, and a giant card that everyone signed.

Faucette even boogied to the music as the children watched.

“I was so happy,” said second grader Erick Foote, “because it’s his birthday.”

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