Photo: Performing his crossing guard duties with a smile, Stinson helps families stay safe on their walk home from school. /Photo by Trenton Conner
Every school day, morning and afternoon, you can find John Stinson at the corner of Valley Ranch and Rodeo, usually finishing a lollipop and always ready to say hello.
Whether it is raining or the heat is blistering, this 89 year old World War II veteran guards hundreds of young people going to Valley Ranch Elementary School every school day.
“I recommend it. It makes an older person get up in the morning,” Stinson said, before rising from his chair in the shade, reaching for his sign, and going to work.
Stinson’s whistle blows blasted clearly across the intersection, and he was in full control from the first moment he walked out onto the street, obviously a veteran at his job. His stop sign waved in the air almost as much as his free hand as he called out to children, whose wide grins spread across their faces as they returned the gesture.
“We’ve crossed over 375,000 kids this past year without any accidents,” Stinson said.
These days Stinson chooses to work part-time as a School Crossing Guard. He has worked in the position for the last 15 years and is one of four supervisors for the Irving Police Department’s School Crossing Guard program. He always had a heart for spending his time in the community. Stinson was helping out at the Irving food bank and overheard a coworker talk about the program.
“One of the gentlemen there was a crossing guard, and we swapped stories. I went over to the supervisor, who at the time was a former Army person, and we swapped army stories. Then all of a sudden she said ‘You’re hired! Go take your physical.’ And so I got in,” Stinson said.
Stinson has been a crossing guard since Aug. 27, 2001.
“John has been and continues to be a valued employee,” Stinson’s supervisor, Regina Rodgers from the Community Services and Police Department, said. “John is always willing to go where necessary to meet the demands of our operation.”
The Irving Police Department is currently looking for new guards for all four crossing guard positions in the Valley Ranch area.
“I have a sign out here saying that I’m looking for a replacement. We are trying to get more people involved. You have to apply online, and I’m glad I got in before that,” Stinson said. “It doesn’t matter what age, we’ve had college age people do it.”
The program tries to cover all the corners for the Irving school districts but has lacked the manpower to do so.
“Were hurting for more people,” Stinson said.
John had many jobs before becoming a crossing guard. Born and raised in Cadillac, Michigan, he later moved to both Washington D.C. and Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. Stinson grew up learning to respect his elders and trust his family.
“While in Harrisburg, my uncle looked at me and said ‘You’re coming with me,’ and I went into the military on the 8th of January, 1944.”
Stinson served in the Army Air Corps training at Keesler Air Force Base in Mississippi and San Diego as an aircraft mechanic. While in San Diego, the war ended and he was shipped to Ft. Worth, Texas.
During his service here, he vowed to come back to Texas; his reasons at the time centered around the cute girls he met in church.
“A lady came up to me on a Sunday and told me I needed to go to Sunday school. I said, ‘Ma’am I’m in the army, I don’t need to do that,’” Stinson said. “But I went with her, because I was raised to respect my elders. There were 18 or more girls, ages 18-24 in there. From then on, I went every day I could and even dated two of the girls.”
Eventually, Stinson found himself working for Texas Instruments and ultimately retired after 30 years, before starting his career as a crossing guard.
“The next time you see a crossing guard, stop to say hello. We’re friendly and we like to share our stories,” Stinson said.