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Stonington school crossing guard retires

Stonington — For the past 14 years, the slightly stooped, shuffling figure of Tom McCoy could be found every afternoon during the school year patroling the southeast corner of Wadawanuck Square in the borough. 

No matter the weather, the 86-year-old McCoy was there with a wave and a friendly word for every child and adult he encountered. Those few words often became a long conversation filled with grandfatherly encouragement and words of wisdom from the former high school track coach. 

A week and half ago, McCoy completed his final shift as a crossing guard and headed into retirement.

After taking a break from working in the yard of his lower Pawcatuck home last week, McCoy said he had planned to stay on until school ends in June, but he decided to step down a bit early to help care for his wife, who has had some health problems.

Asked about the job, McCoy said, "I just liked the people, I liked seeing the kids. You see them grow up, that's what's so nice. And I like to hear about what they are doing now." 

"The people were great in Stonington. Everyone was always so nice," he added.

Before retiring the first time, McCoy spent 40 years working as a crane technician at Electric Boat. He then began substitute teaching and worked as a hall monitor and volunteer track and cross country coach at Stonington High School. Then, 14 years ago, he was coming out of Sunday Mass when then police Chief Dave Erskine told McCoy he needed a crossing guard and asked if he was interested. 

McCoy said he never missed a day of work as a crossing guard. He would set his alarm clock for 4:30 a.m., even though he didn't need to report until 6:30. He would be at his post by 6 a.m. in case a child arrived early.

"I didn't want them to cross the street by themselves," he said.

Then he would be back in the afternoon for his second shift of the day.   

He said the 40 hours of pay every two weeks also came in handy.

"And I really enjoyed getting up and getting out," he said.

Those walking or driving by would see McCoy, a former competitive runner, getting in his mileage as he walked up and back on the sidewalk between helping children cross the street.

During last week's Board of Police Commissioners meeting, in which members praised McCoy and accepted his resignation with regret, commission member Lisa Tepper Bates said her son began riding the bus from Wadawanuck Square in first grade. 

She pointed out "the care and concern that Tom McCoy shows for every single child and adult who crosses his path."

"He is always kind, always patient and he always has a smile and a joke for all the kids. He will be greatly, greatly missed, certainly by my family, and I think everyone in the borough ... and as we've heard across Stonington," she said. "People have strong ties to Tom McCoy and great respect and admiration and love for him."  

Replacing McCoy at the bus stop is Danyelle Stephenson of Westerly. Last week she picked up right where McCoy left off, waving and greeting people driving and walking by.

She called McCoy a "happy-go-lucky gentleman."

"He's awesome. He came down here yesterday to check on me. Most people don't do things like that," she said. "He wanted everything to be fine with everyone because if not, he's not OK."

Police Capt. Todd Olson said not only was McCoy "unbelievably reliable, everyone loves him."

"He absolutely cares about the kids and the job he did. He takes it very seriously," Olson said. "We could always rely on him. He came out rain or shine. Nothing kept him home. It's a big loss for us."  

In retirement, McCoy said he will continue his work with the Right to Life Group at St. Michael Church and visit friends. He said he will continue to take his daily walk and will even try to throw in some situps and pushups.

"You've got to keep busy," he said. "The day the good Lord says come home, you come home."

j.wojtas@theday.com

Editor's Note: Tom McCoy retired from beeing a crossing guard two weeks ago. Information was incorrect in the photo captions in an earlier version of this story. The spelling of Wadawanuck Square also has been corrected in the captions.

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