Those in the West Rome area traveling around or near Elm Street (near West Rome Baptist Church) may have noticed a woman in a bright orange vest helping kids cross Shorter Avenue before and after school lets out on weekdays.
Even without being noticed, 94-year-old Emma Brown is always there and has been serving the Elm Street community as a crossing guard faithfully for 21-years.
Patrolling the busy roadway in the mornings, Brown helps students who walk to school cross safely, as well as patrols Ethel Street, which turns into a one way at 7:30 a.m. and then again at 2 p.m. for school dismissal.
“I came back to Elm Street as a teacher in 2007 and Ms. Emma was here bright and early, every single morning,” said Laura Walley, principal at Elm Street Elementary School. “She never misses a beat. I don’t care if its freezing cold or raining, Ms. Emma is there. Her number one priority is student safety and we are just so thankful for her, especially because Elm Street has a ton of students who walk to school every day.”
Growing up, Brown watched her next-door neighbor, a Ms. Johnson, go to work every single day as a crossing guard. She is the reason the dedicated public servant decided to pursue her career.
“Growing up, my next-door neighbor was a school crossing guard for about 40 years,” said Brown. “She was the only one I know of, too. She was sworn in as a police officer and worked 40 years in the fourth ward; she was really good.”
When her mother passed in November of 1997, Brown decided to take an opening they had in the police department for a crossing guard. She went up to the station, applied and was hired.
“Ms. Johnson worked the Elm Street area and she asked them if they would replace her with me,” she said. “And I have been here at Elm Street since.”
To Brown, being a crossing guard isn’t just a job. “The school crossing is my happy place. It really is, and I love the kids. I really do,” she said.
On top of working as a crossing guard, Brown trains Elm Streets sixth-grade students who are in the School Safety Patrol as well.
“We select three fifth-graders at the end of the year who demonstrate mature, responsible behavior,” Walley said. “Ms. Emma takes pride in training them and takes the job very seriously.”
Brown said she wanted students David Avalos, Billy Adair and Charlie Smith to be the ones recognized for all of their hard work and dedication to safety.
“The boys who do School Safety Patrol deserve more recognition than I do. They are outside with me every day, regardless of the weather. They did not leave their post, not once,” she said.
During her time serving as safety patrol, Brown says she has had children that she will never forget who have made an impact on her as a person.
“There was one little girl who I will never forget. Every day to and from school, she always carried a Furby with her. It was as dirty as could be. One afternoon, she stuck it out and said, ‘I want you to have this.’ I told her I couldn’t take it because I knew it was her favorite toy, but she refused. So, I took it and told her that when she wanted it back I would have it waiting for her,” recalled Brown. “She was a happy child, really happy. I still wonder about her to this day; I always hope that life didn’t take her joy away, because she was so joyful.”
When asked about her retirement, Brown laughed and said, “Well, I’m not planning on it anytime soon! You see, I just try and live one day at a time.”