Real Michiana: Grandpa Larry standing guard for students
SOUTH BEND, Ind. -- A 74-year-old man became a crossing guard at Muessel Elementary School to pass the time, but he found a new community--where the students call him "Grandpa Larry."
“He’s the best crossing guard, and every morning he says good morning to us, and he’s like my grandpa to me," said Nyah Humphrey, a student at Muessel.
A smiley, white-gloved, yellow-vested retiree, Grandpa Larry has stood at the corner of Vassar and Cleveland nearly every school day for six years.
“There’s a lot of little kids that used to come here and say oh my grandfather died...and a lot of little girls would say would you be my grandpa?...and I said of course, I’d be honored, and I would it makes me feel good that they ask me to be their grandparent," said "Grandpa" Larry Dutoi.
“It’s more touching to me, because he’s like a dad to me, because I just lost my dad this past April, so there’s not that kind of figure and he’s there every morning to say good morning, to ask how the day’s going. He’ll tell me how the weather is. He’s real friendly to my kids," said Denise Cortez, a Muessel Elementary parent.
“I like how he’s our crossing guard," said Denise Cortez, Denise's daughter.
“He will make sure a child gets to where she needs to go. He will make sure that child is safe," said Whitney Humphrey, Nyah's mother.
“When I wave like that they stop and wondering what I’m doing, and then it dawns on them that I’m waving at them, but they stopped. Also it’s a heck of a lot better to get waved at. Some of these people will show you a picture of a finger, but that’s basically why I do it—just to help control the traffic a little bit." said Grandpa Larry, waving to a passing driver.
With every greeting, he's come to realize that his crosswalk marks an intersection of cultures in this "Crossroads of America."
“In all the years I’ve been here, I think this place is really a...cosmic of the United States. You have everybody here. White Hispanic, African American....The blend really makes America if you want to know the truth.”
Morning drop-off can seem like a blur, but parents say this corner wouldn't be the same without Grandpa Larry's pop of neon.
“He’s all for the kids, and that’s what we need in the community. All for the children," said Whitney.
Still, there is a bit of a selfish motive: the hugs.
“He has the best hugs in the whole wide world," said Nyah.
"That’s kind of nice if you want to know the truth," said Larry.
Grandpa Larry is going on his tenth year as a crossing guard, and he says he won't stop until his body tells him he has to.
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