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Crossing guard fills need at Shepherdstown school

By Staff | Sep 10, 2010

Bill Wilcox mans his post at Shepherdstown Elementary School, where he has served as a crossing guard for the past six years. Known as ‘Pa Bill’ to the children and their families, his service doesn’t go unnoticed by the community. (Photo by Jennifer Wabnitz)

SHEPHERDSTOWN Every morning for the past six years, Bill Wilcox has greeted the children of Shepherdstown Elementary.

He helps open doors. He helps children off the bus. He does traffic control in the busy rush time.

He has become so familiar that the children all call him Pa Bill and they express their gratitude in many different ways, such as friendly greetings, a daily cup of hot chocolate or icy lemonade, cookies and more.

Dana, his eldest daughter, recognized the need for a crossing guard as she dropped off her child for Kindergarten. She asked her dad if he would consider it and he agreed.

“Thinking it was a volunteer position made it a nice surprise when I received a paycheck,” Wilcox said, still laughing about it six years later.

Susan Reichel drops her children off at the school.

“He takes his job seriously,” she said of Wilcox. “He is very courteous to the school staff. His helpful door openings and cheerful greetings start their day off right.”

His perfect attendance for six years reflects his dedication.

Keeping children safe is a very valuable job.

Dana’s daughter, Wilcox’s first grandchild, has now moved on to the middle school, but he has three more grandchildren and one of them is only in nursery school.

“Being around young people keeps you young,” he said, and that’s important when you’re 79.

The retired electrical engineer and his wife, Jo, moved to Shepherdstown in the fall of 1999. In this pleasant rural setting, he realized he could enjoy his new passion, bike riding.

He rides almost 3,000 miles a year and tries to ride everyday with several riding partners.

Wilcox participates in many events, such as short and long races, and recently took part in a duathalon. He had to run three miles and bike for 10 miles.

“My times were terrible,” he said, “But I’m glad I did it.”

Wilcox also combines bike riding with one of his other hobbies. He is a Civil War buff, often riding through the battlefields.

He used to own a touring business with another Civil War buff and they have toured all over the United States.

Wilcox generously shares his knowledge of Civil War Battlefields with Scout troops and others.

In 1993, he biked from Portland, Ore., to Portland, Maine.

“I rode through some of the prettiest parts of the country,” he said. “Oregon and Vermont were my favorites.”

Wilcox also has ridden the Ride Across Iowa race several times. The organizers pick a different route each time.

“Sometimes you ride across the flat parts of Iowa and sometimes you’re in the hills,” he explained. “Either way, it’s a great trip.”

Wilcox has been helping local bike-race organizers, planning the routes and marking the road for them.

He will be planning five routes in the spring for a CASA, Court Appointed Special Advocates, fundraiser.

CASA is a nonprofit group that helps judges find facts about cases when children are involved and there isn’t enough information to make good decisions. This race is a big fund raiser for them.

Riders can choose between a 100-mile route; a metric-100 route, about 63 miles; a 50-mile route; a 10-mile route; and a kiddies’ loop – training wheels permitted.

“It is a great event for a great cause – come on out,” Wilcox said.

For people starting to ride, Wilcox offers the following advice:

If you find a seat that suits you, keep it; and

Be alert. Riding on the roads is very dangerous.

Many years ago, Wilcox read a daily report of an 83-year-old man who showed up to do the ride across Iowa 500-plus miles of organized ride. He had a three-speed bike and a strong will. At first, people were skeptical that he could complete the course, but as he pedalled along, his fan club grew. He finished the route.

Wilcox was so inspired that he promised himself to try and still be riding at age 83 – only four more years to go.