Elnora Williams has been a crossing guard for the city of Palmetto for 17 years.
The portable breathing machine is strapped to her back, the tubes connected to her nose. She is not sure what is wrong. Maybe they will tell her to the doctor on Friday. Hopefully, it’s nothing. After all, she doesn’t want to end up “stone and lonesome,” which is how she describes dead.
Who would cross the kids then?
Her name is Elnora Williams. She is 81 years old and is a crossing guard at the corner of 10th Street West and 14th Avenue West in Palmetto. Each morning — and again in the afternoon — she helps elementary school students — and the occasional mother duck and her ducklings — cross the street safely.
She wears black pants, a white shirt and the lime-green safety vest she keeps on a clothes hanger near the front door of her home. To wear it “makes me feel important,” she said.
She drives to Palmetto from Bradenton each morning in a car with Betty Boop seat covers. On the front is a license plate frame that says “Foxy Cougar,” which was a gift from her granddaughter. The back license plate frame reads “Air Force Wife.”
She said her husband served in the Air Force and they lived in places like England, Spain, South Dakota, and Arkansas until he retired in 1992. Then they moved to Bradenton. He passed away four years ago.
She has four children, ages 54-60. Crossing the kids at Palmetto Elementary reminds her of taking her kids to school. Where did the time go? It was picture day last week. The kids were all dressed up. Another reminder of when she did the same to her own.
She works for the city of Palmetto and has been a crossing guard for 17 years. Across the street from her post is a cemetery. There is life on her side, death on the other, and the message is clear: Keep moving, or wind up “stone and lonesome.”
After the last person was crossed Tuesday morning — a child riding on the back of his father — she drove home to clean before she had to return to her corner in the afternoon.
She’ll be there tomorrow as well, holding out her stop sign, hooked to her oxygen tank, wearing her lime-green crossing guard vest and feeling important all over again.