- Associated Press - Sunday, March 19, 2017

BOWLING GREEN, Ky. (AP) - Betty Natcher has been helping Bowling Green school children cross the road for 40 years.

As the longest-serving crossing guard working for the Bowling Green Police Department, she sees her twice-daily assistance to children going to and coming from Potter Gray Elementary School as a “pleasure” more than a job.

“I’ve always loved children and still do. They make my day. It turned out not to be a job but a pleasure,” Natcher said.

She began her career at T.C. Cherry Elementary School, where she worked for 20 years before moving to Potter Gray.

“I love everything about it,” she said. “It’s my happy time.”

As children left school on a recent sunny afternoon, one boy softly said “thank you” to Natcher for stopping traffic on Covington Street at Collett Lane so he could walk safely across the street.

When she began her crossing guard career, her children were small and she was looking for something to do.

“I was scared to death. I had to stand in the middle of the road and direct traffic. I liked it,” she said.

The children brought her joy and continue to do so.

Betty Natcher has been with us since 1977,” BGPD Capt. Josh Hughes said. “She never ever calls in (sick). They are out there in the rain and snow. It doesn’t matter how hot or how cold. She knows the kids by name a lot of times. Those kids just love her, and she loves those kids.”

The police department employs eight crossing guards assigned near elementary schools.

Natcher wants to remind the public to observe the stop sign she uses when helping children cross the two busy streets to which she is assigned.

“They definitely keep those kids safe,” said Hughes, who supervises the crossing guards. “They are crossing high-traffic intersections. The safety of these kids is in their hands. These ladies are extremely protective of those kids. They truly care about those kids. The thing that’s neat to me is to see the relationship with them. The kids know the ladies by name. You can tell there is definitely a bond between the kids and the (crossing guards.)”

Sequoia Martin is one of the city’s newest crossing guards. She took the place of her late mother, Berenda Martin, who worked as a crossing guard for 37 years at Scott Way and Jenkins Drive near Parker-Bennett-Curry Elementary School.

“The same spot that she was at, I’m over there now,” Sequoia Martin said. “My mom was such a service to the kids of that community, and I want to stay there to continue her legacy.

Berenda Martin died Feb. 25 of congestive heart failure after struggling with it for more two years.

“Her heart was just so big and she gave so much love that she never let (sickness) get in her way of working with those kids,” Sequoia Martin said.

Her mother died on a Friday, and on the following Monday, Sequoia Martin was standing at her mom’s post near the school.

“I was smiling and I was crying because I missed Mama. The hugs that they gave and just the aura from the kids and the ‘have a good day’ were everything that I needed and more. I just felt like Mama was right there beside me. She’s there every day, I feel.

“Those kids were literally my saving grace. They gave me so much encouragement that day. It was beyond me. Children are so innocent, and their heart is completely pure.

“I’ve always looked up to my mom. She’s always been a strong woman. I want to be like my mama. It’s not for the pay of the job. Being a crossing guard is more than just crossing them every day.

“You are a counselor, a mentor and second mommy. Even though they only see you twice a day, they talk to you about everything. It was like two-for-one treat. Sometimes I will look over at my truck and see apples and oranges on my truck. They leave me fruit.”

She said it’s not unusual for the children to be concerned if she has eaten that day.

Natcher gets the same treatment from the kids she crosses and the parents. Parents often bring her a hot cup of cocoa or coffee on a cold day.

Last year one of the children Natcher sees every day said he was going to provide her with 12 days of Christmas and he did. Every day for 12 days he brought her a gift to show his appreciation.

“It was just the cutest thing ever,” Natcher said. “I couldn’t believe it.”

She and Sequoia Martin said sending kids off to school with a smile every morning is an important part of the job.

Terry Wells of Glasgow greeted Natcher on Wednesday at her intersection as she was crossing with her grandson Baker Heltsley, who attends Potter Gray. Baker and his younger siblings roll down their car windows every morning and yell in unison, “good morning, Miss Betty.”

“She is just a bright spot,” Wells said of Natcher. “She is so kind, welcoming and friendly.”

Baker said Natcher’s smile makes him feel “happy.”

“She’s nice. She stops cars. She lets the people go,” said Baker, a first-grade student.

On sunny days Natcher tells the children headed into school “the sun is like a big warm hug every morning.”

Sequoia Martin hopes to be a crossing guard as long as her late mother and Natcher have been.

“I hope that I’m in a position to where that I can give as much love and as much time as she did,” Sequoia Martin said of her mother. “Mama was so dedicated. There were days when Mama was sick as a dog and I would say, ‘Mama why don’t you stay home,’ and she said, ‘No, I’ve got to cross my kids.’ No matter how she felt she made sure she took care of the kids over there at that crosswalk.

“Lord willing and as long as I have the strength and the ability to be there, I want to,” Sequoia Martin said.

Her mother instructed her to have candy on the last day of school before winter break and to also plan to play music for the kids that day because they like it. She also told her to make sure each child has pencils and paper on the first day of school.

“Me and my sister are going to go a step forward. We are going to start a nonprofit called Berenda’s Crossing. What we’re going to do is collect donations. The biggest event will be the first day of school so that the kids coming across have everything on their list. We are even going to have some backpacks over there for children whose parents may not be able to afford it. On the first day of school we want to invite different people of the community to give them high fives and tell them to have a great year.

“That’s how mom was. As long as I’m at that cross walk I want to be able to let those kids know that you have still got somebody who loves you as much as Mom did,” Sequoia Martin said.

Bowling Green Independent School District Superintendent Gary Fields said the crossing guards often remain a constant in a child’s life.

“The consistency of all the crossing guards is pretty amazing,” Fields said. “It’s not like they see somebody new every year. These are people who have given their entire career to impacting kids and generations.

“For a lot of our kids who walk that’s the one adult who they consistently see each morning and afternoon who has a ‘good morning’ or ‘great afternoon’ and can give them a smile.

“It’s like the postal service, rain, sleet, snow, they are going to be there to help them make sure they get to school safely,” he said.

___

Information from: Daily News, https://www.bgdailynews.com

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