Janet Haines is adjusting to life as a new retiree after 52 years of serving as the crossing guard at Saint James Catholic School.
Since the 94-year-old left the City of Falls Church Police Department in June, she has more time to make gifts for friends, go on daily walks, and read and watch her favorite home and garden show on television.
But Haines will have to clear some space in her busy schedule today as Falls Church and St. James will honor “our beautiful and iconic crossing guard” who is also the City’s longest standing employee at a celebration at the school, according to an invitation extended to City employees by Police Chief Mary Gavin.
When she started at St. James, Haines had no plans to stay long, but “I guess I kept at it because I had the job and it just worked out that I could continue.” Her husband, a career U.S. Navy man who died in 2015, wanted to return to Alaska, but the job there did not fit his skills, and the family stayed here. Haines stayed on her job.
Twice a day, every day, Haines drove the three miles from her home in Arlington to St. James for the morning and afternoon shifts. Her two falls over the last year (one in the crosswalk), however, led to her decision to retire.
“I just felt it was the time to go, age-wise as well, just to be on the safe side,” Haines said. “I feel fine and I’m healthy, but it’s just one of those things. I just thought maybe it was time to stop.”
The best part of her job, she said, “was working with St. James which was a pleasure because the children were very respectful and they listen to you.”
Haines took her job seriously. She was vigilant about keeping the kids on the curb until all the passing cars stopped, though she does admit that “once in a while somebody wasn’t watching and slipped through.”
The newly retired crossing guard never came close to being hit by a driver over all those years either. Haines mentioned that most of the drivers were pretty considerate, especially after they knew she was there.
The only time she summoned the police while on duty was when a man nearby fell off a wall where he was sitting, landing in a crumble. Turns out he was drunk.
The worst part of her job was probably the cold weather, but layering up became just another part of the daily routine. Sometimes she had to stand on the ice. And while she misses working, she doesn’t miss the inclement weather. “It’s nice not to have to go out,” she says, and so far in retirement, she’s not bored.
Haines drives herself to church, to the grocery, and to meet up with friends. Her well-kept living room is testimony to her good housekeeping skills. “When I do it,” she laughed again.
Nearby are her two sons who live in the area and come by to help with the yard work and take care of her car, but “my children are so busy with their own lives. I don’t want them telling me what to do. I kind of resent it when it was slippery and they told me not to go out. I do for myself. They have their own lives, and I have mine.”
Haines looks at least two decades younger than she is, but she claims to have no beauty secrets.
“Being around all the children and keeping busy,” she mused, may have something to do with it.
She’s an example of all the research found on the web that says working later in life can boost a person’s mental, social and physical wellbeing.
The St. James school principal, Sister Mary Sue, wrote in a statement: “Mrs. Haines is an ambassador of kindness and dedication to our world. She radiates care and concern for everyone around her. We love her and are so grateful that she has been such a vital part of our lives. We will miss seeing her on the corner each day.”
The police department haven’t replaced Haines at the corner of Spring and West Broad. Chief Gavin says that makes her irreplaceable.
For her retirement years she wants to finish up some projects and read the Bible more and “just live life the best way that I can and enjoy it,” she smiled.