“Thank you Mr. Bob” was on the marque at Orange City Elementary School on the last day of school.
A couple of employees at the school held signs that read: “Happy Retirement Mr. Bob” and “Thank you for keeping our students safe! We’ll Miss you.”
It was a send-off to remember. Robert “Mr. Bob” Frew, 91, took his last stand at the corner of Orange and University avenues, just near Orange City Elementary. He crosses 20 to 25 children each day during the school year.
“My job is to get these kids across the street safely to school and then back home,” he said. “We don’t direct traffic. There’s a 3-way stop sign and everybody, if they obey, that makes it nice. Nobody speeds through here. It’s probably the nicest post in the whole district.”
Charles Bynum, principal at Orange City Elementary, planned a parade of vehicles for his departure. Well-wishers stopped to shake his hand and thank him for taking care of their children.
“He’s such a super nice guy. We’ve enjoyed him,” Mr. Bynum said. “That’s one thing I never worry about because I know he’ll be out there every day. The kids talk about him all the time.”
Aaron Corbin, 6, stopped to say goodbye. Aaron and “Mr. Bob” did a fist bump and then the elder pulled in the youngster for a hug.
“I’m gonna miss him a lot,” said the first grader, who is going into second grade.
Kacy Rivera and her children, Braxton, 9, and Remmington, 6, will miss him.
“He always crosses us,” Ms. Rivera said. “We see him every day. We love him. He’s the sweetest guy ever.”
Work started at 7 a.m. and went to 8 a.m. and then from 2:15 p.m. to 3:15 p.m. – “a split shift,” Mr. Frew said, and chuckled. He said he’s been at his post for 10 years, although he started out at Manatee Cove Elementary School and put in five years there – “some of the things you hear from kids are really funny.”
Over at Manatee Cove, he said an 8-year-old girl used to cross the street and stop in the middle to say, “‘My mom did my hair. How do you like it?’ And traffic is backed up.”
Another time, an autistic little guy would give his mother a difficult time about going to school. “I said give me five. That kid ran over, gave me five and ran right into school. He finished school. I see him every now and then. When he sees me, he gives me a big hug.”
Last year at Orange City Elementary, a woman had seven children and was expecting her eighth. He said her oldest came up to him and asked if he remembered him from Manatee Cove. He crossed the youngster when he was in the first grade.
Turns out, “he’s in the Navy in Pensacola learning to be an air traffic controller,” he said.
Finally, Mr. Frew said he remembers a little guy who was always late for school at Manatee Cove. He said after crossing him, he was running up to the school. All of the sudden he dropped all his books to salute the flag because the Pledge of Allegiance could be heard over the PA system.
“When it was over, he picked up his books and ran into school,” he said.
Mr. Frew, born on Merrick, Long Island, joined the U.S. Navy just after high school. He was still 17. He served from February 1947 to February 1952. He was on the second USS Juneau, which was commissioned Feb. 15, 1946. The first USS Juneau sunk Nov. 13, 1942. One time on the USS Juneau while near Korea, he said he was in the general quarters when he saw six torpedo boats.
“I saw them come out of the fog,” he said. “I heard over the PA ‘commence fire.’ We sunk five and one got away from us. We picked up survivors and sent them to Tokyo, prisoners of war.”
Mr. Frew, who started with the phone company as a splicer’s assistant in New York and retired after 35 years, said he’ll never forget the day when he and his buddy pulled out of the garage.
“I saw this guy come out with a stop sign,” he said. “I never saw that before and wondered what he was doing. My buddy said, ‘it’s a crossing guard.’ This guy started with the phone company before World War I. I looked at him and said, ‘I would never do that.’ And here I am doing it myself. I love that.”
As for retirement, Mr. Frew said he will spend it with his wife of 67 years, Eileen. They have three children and six grandchildren.
Other than that, he said, “I’ll watch the grass grow. What do you do when you’re retired? We’re not planning anything, yet. I’m in my 90s now. I feel like it’s time to slow down.”