The man with the red sign lends a hand

Carolyn Fertig

Longtime Kent resident puts kids’ safety first

Longtime Kent resident and crossing guard Paul Craven lends a helping hand to children and parents crossing S. Water Street on their way to and from Holden Elementary School. Hannah Potes | Daily Kent Stater

Credit: DKS Editors

Paul Craven parks his car at the McDonald’s parking lot on South Water Street, gets out, opens his trunk and places the orange and yellow vest on. “Crossing Guard” is written in bold black letters on the vest.

He begins walking to the corner of West School Street and South Water Street, wishing for his day to start. He stands there, and he waits, always keeping his eyes open in case a child is in need of his assistance.

Paul has lived in Kent his whole life, for more than 75 years. He is dressed in a plaid blue and white button down shirt, blue pants, gray sneakers and a green baseball cap. His hair is bright white, and his eyebrows are speckled with black and white. They move as he smiles.

He looks down at his watch, reading 8:06 a.m.

“They must be late, or I must be fast,” he says about the kids as he laughs.

Paul’s day started like every other day. He got up just as the sun was rising around 6 a.m. He fed the cat and took out the trash, the normal things that people do.

8:10 a.m. – A young girl riding her bicycle shows up at the other side of the street. Paul quickly presses the button to get a walk signal. They both wait.

The white walk signal appears, and Paul quickly puts up his sign, stopping cars as he reaches the center of the street. The girl begins riding across the street.

“Good morning,” Paul says.

The girl smiles as she passes Paul. She repeats the salutation in a shy voice.

8:17 a.m. – Two boys on bikes speed up to the street. Their father, walking closely behind them, is holding the hand of another much smaller boy.

“How are you doing?” says Bryan Bryce, the father of the young boys, as he walks past him in a hurry to catch up to the children.

The two boys ride past him on their bikes. Helmets cover their faces, but they both smile as they ride.

The smallest boy is an exact image of his father. The man, with a close-shaved head, walks slowly but with his eyes close on his children.

The young son smiles as he walks past, as if this is his favorite part of the day. He reaches the sidewalk and begins running past the driveway.

“Tristan, watch out for cars,” Bryce yells. He begins walking quickly after his son, and Tristan slows down.

“I am just so happy that Paul is here,” Bryce says. “He is so genuine and just a great person.”

8:21 a.m. – Another round of children show up at the other side of the street.

The cars, trucks, and vans whiz by, just as Paul gets to his post again.

“I like to write,” Paul says. “I write a letter to the editor once a month. It is mostly about how the city officials get paid too much money. I might have to get a new lawyer now, because mine is not happy with me because he was one that I wrote about.”

8:25 a.m. – Children continue coming. They are small, and their book bags seem much larger than them. A woman crosses the street with three young children. She carries a large pink book bag with glitter, as if she’s one of the kids.

Some parents take turns walking the children to school. Today was Tricia Niesz-Kutsch’s turn to chaperone.

“I feel more comfortable knowing that Paul is there,” she says. “When the kids are old enough, I know that he will watch them as they go to school.”

A boy stops by Paul and begins talking about his weekend. Paul listens very carefully waiting for the next words of this little boy’s tale.

The boy returns to his journey to school, skipping as he leaves.

8:35 a.m. – Paul waits for strays. It’s what he calls the late children. He sees some people coming, and he holds up his sign as he makes his way to the middle of the street.

8:47 a.m. – Business begins to slow down. Paul waits, commenting about the speed of the cars that drive by.

He sees some children across the street. He looks, realizes they are waiting for the PARTA bus and that they are “big kids.” He frowns and paces across the sidewalk.

“I don’t mind the Kent State students,” he says with a smile, “even though everyone else around here hates them.”

Paul waits at his post until 9 a.m. exactly and then walks over to his car, still in the McDonald’s parking lot. He opens his trunk, takes off his vest, folds it and puts it into his car.

He is off to maybe take a nap, maybe do laundry, maybe get coffee.

“It depends,” he says, “but you can always count on me because I will be back at 3 p.m. to make sure those kids get safely home.” ?

Contact features correspondent Carolyn Fertig at [email protected]