Couple ends 2 decades protecting kids in the crosswalk in Stevens Point

  • Article by: NATHAN VINE , Stevens Point Journal Media
  • Updated: June 17, 2013 - 12:06 AM

STEVENS POINT, Wis. — Dorene Chojnacki knows the faces of the students she sees every day as a crossing guard near McDill Elementary School.

Standing in her usual spot on School Street, she also can point out the vehicles that drive too fast along Highway HH, and a point of her finger can slow them down.

Chojnacki, 76, and her husband, Gerald, 80, have been patrolling this intersection for the past 20 years, and as students ended this school year, the couple also marked their retirement, Stevens Point Journal Media reported (http://spjour.nl/11gaREj).

"I really like the job, especially when it comes to the children," Dorene Chojnacki said. "Some of the young ones come up looking serious, and you ask them how their day was and they say it was tough because a crayon broke. I can't say that I ever had any mean kids. They were respectful, and would say thank you, and that made it fun."

Dorene, who has worked part time throughout her life and still fills in as a secretary for the village of Whiting, decided to pursue the guard job because it was close to her home. The village hired her in 1990. She split time with another person, but after a while, that person stopped showing up for work.

When it came to a replacement, she was asked whether her husband, who had retired after working 22 years as a telephone equipment installer, would be interested in the job. So he started working in 1993.

Since then, the two have split duties working at the crossing in the morning and the afternoon, each taking a week at a time. Gerald Chojnacki said the amount of children can vary depending on the weather or the time of year. On this year's final shift, from 3:35 p.m. until 4 p.m., only a handful of students came to the crossing, but Dorene pointed out that it was the last day of school and parents were likely picking up their children.

While the Chojnackis say they enjoy interacting with students, one of the problems with the job has been the behavior of motorists driving on Highway HH. Gerald said people regularly go faster than the posted speed limit of 25 mph, or 15 mph when students are around.

"It can be kind of hair-raising at times," Dorene Chojnacki said. "There have been some close calls, and at this point, it's not something that we want to be responsible for anymore, because I couldn't live with myself if something did happen."

The Chojnackis say they don't have any plans to take on any more new jobs. Gerald has a vegetable garden, while Dorene has a flower garden, and the two have grandchildren who live nearby.

"We don't have a lot of plans," Dorene Chojnacki said. "It will be different not having to get up in the morning, but it's something we are ready for."

This is an AP Member Exchange shared by Stevens Point Journal Media

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