Crossing guard’s friendly greetings will be missed

Sharing afternoon smiles, Avonworth crossing guard Herb Mcluckie with Adam Kramer (left) and grandchildren Katie and John Gould. Mcluckie will retire from his Ben Avon Heights post, where his friendly greetings to parents, students and motorists will be missed. Photo by Tom Steiner for The Citizen

After enjoying over a decade of retirement from his job as a lab technician for H. H. Robinson Co., Herb Mcluckie of Emsworth returned to the work force four years ago to take up a new career that could only be described as being a labor of love.

Hard to think of serving as a crossing guard in such lofty terms, but just ask Herb and you'll get an answer that expresses his love for the people he greets and guards every morning and afternoon at the intersection of Oxford and New Brighton Road in Ben Avon Heights.

"I've thoroughly enjoyed it. I've gotten to see beautiful children, their emotions, and the love between them and their parents."

It all started at the suggestion of Joe Pool, who had held the post for six years. "I was talking to Joe and he asked me what I was doing. He said, 'I'm going to quit the job, you might like it.'"

Herb thought it over, quickly realizing the chief benefit from working that particular intersection. "I have a daughter and grandchildren. I'd see them every day. That alone would make it worth it."

And so began a job that Herb really doesn't think of as being a job. Maybe it's more a study in the psychology of young people.

"In the morning, everybody's waving, and they're so full of energy. When they come home at three, many of them show that they've had a rough day, as if to say, 'I'm whipped!' while others are proudly pulling out papers for their parents to see."

His job also offers a sideline that involves the many motorists on their way to work, most of them not personally acquainted with Herb -- but acquainted nonetheless.

"I figure everybody needs a smile and a wave when they're going off to work, even if I don't know who they are. Early on in the job, a couple stopped by and the lady held out an envelope to me. Her husband said, 'She's blind.' The envelope had some gift cards for a coffee shop. That just knocked my socks off."

So the waving goes on. About the only drivers who don't return the friendly gestures are the ones who are steering with one hand and holding a cell phone in the other. "That's a large percentage, some days" Herb said.

He probably would be back on the job come September, except for a little reality that Margie, his wife of 53 years, pointed out recently.

"She told me, 'You're going to be 80! You shouldn't be out in all kinds of weather. Plus, nine months of the year, we can't go anyplace -- like to see our son Scott and his family in Florida.'"

His hours run from 6:40-8 in the morning, and from 2:30-3:55 in the afternoon.

"I've made good friends with some of the parents in the few minutes each day that we have time to talk. I'm so grateful for this job. I wouldn't change anything," Mcluckie said.

Denise Raves, who schedules the guards, asked if she could count on him if she needed someone to fill in from time to time. "I said, 'Sure!' For short periods, of course."

"He is going to be missed," Raves said. "He's up there with the kids and he loves it. We're going to miss him desperately."

And Joe Pool is proud of his replacement.

"I think that Herb Mcluckie is 'aces.' He is one of the kindest and most friendly persons."

His daughter, Jennifer Gould, passes by his stop every morning on her way to work as a teacher at Ohio Township Elementary School. Her co-worker, Maureen Frew, once told Jennifer that she gets a wave from Jennifer's dad every morning. But nobody gets Jennifer's "special" wave, delivered with hand over heart.

"It's been a great experience. I'll miss it," Herb said.

The kids will miss him, too.

Avonworth sophomore Jared Cuteri said, "He always greets me on my way home from the bus. He gives me a smile and an optimistic remark about the weather or how many days of school are left."

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