After 25-plus years as crossing guard, Betty Regan hangs up her stop sign


For 25 years, if you passed by the intersection of Kearny Ave. and Halstead St. on a school day, there you would find Betty Regan, making sure kids got across the street safely and in one piece.

You’d also find her chatting with those same kids she crossed, or their parents, their teachers — and sometimes, just ordinary Kearny residents out for a walk. But no longer will you find Regan on that same corner, because after 26 1/2 years as a crossing guard — she had other posts the first 1 1/2 years in her career — last Friday, she hung up her red big stop sign for the last time as she heads into a well-deserved retirement at 70.

Last Friday — Regan’s last day on the job — her friend and fellow crossing guard Carol Manley put together a proper sendoff. She decorated the poles on the four corners there and even had a bagpiper come to play. Countless people, from the Kearny Police and Fire departments, kids from the high school, parents, teachers and friends, all stopped by to wish her well.

“And it was overwhelming,” Regan said. “I was totally shocked and had no idea this was happening. Getting to see so many people I’ve known over the years was very emotional, especially the kids I used to cross. What a day it was.”

And it was a day a long time in the making.

Regan began crossing kids at Kearny and Halstead on Jan. 2, 1991. But before becoming a crossing guard, she’d worked in a law firm, and wanted a job that would allow her to be with her kids — at the time, they were in the eighth- and ninth-grades — during the summer months.

Few other jobs would afford her that kind of opportunity as a crossing guard position would.

So she took the position a year and a half before she got to her permanent location and over those years, she says she met some of the most wonderful people one could imagine.

“I’ve met some wonderful kids over the years,” she said. “And the parents, too. And they’ve gotten even nicer as the years went on. In fact, this graduating class at KHS probably the nicest class I’ve ever known. So many of them say ‘hello’ when I see them, and they’re always so gracious by saying ‘thank you’ after I’d cross them.”

And while one might think it would be a difficult task to cross children at such a busy intersection, Regan says it really wasn’t so hard — except for just a few things.

“I’m a red head and I have fair skin,” Regan said. “So the hot days were never the best days. I’d have to put on a 50 sun screen to make sure I didn’t burn. The winter months — the very cold days — were a lot easier than you might think, because you can always add on layers for the cold. You can’t take them off when it’s hot.”

Aside from the hot weather, the only other thing that really often bothered her at Kearny and Halstead was absent-minded drivers.

“I can’t believe how many people would drive by texting,” she said. “Some of them would be looking down and paying no attention to their surroundings. It made the job a lot harder. If I had $1 for every person I saw texting and driving, I wouldn’t have had to work.

“But occasionally, if a cop was nearby, they’d get pulled over and wonder, ‘What? What did I do wrong?’”

Meanwhile, Regan says as the years moved on, people would often ask her why she enjoyed Kearny and Halstead so much — there must be lots of kids fighting in that area, they’d say. And yet, that was the furthest from the truth.

“I saw more fights in the early days than I did over the least few years,” Regan said. “In fact, I say the kids got much nicer and more polite as the years passed. These kids are wonderful — they really are.”

And that reminded Regan of one of the last kids she crossed her last day on the job.

It was a young boy who was crossing with his grandmother. He spoke English, but grandma only spoke Spanish. But the boy’s grandmother noticed all the decorations Manley put up earlier and she gave her grandson a message to deliver to Regan in English.

“The boy said, ‘My grandma says congratulations and good luck,’” Regan said. “It doesn’t matter whether people can speak English — they’re just really nice people.”

And it’s the people she’ll miss the most.

“Not just the kids, though,” Regan said. “I’m going to miss all the people — the kids, the teachers, parents, everyone. I’ve been very fortunate.”

And that fortune, in retirement, will now allow her to spend more time with her three grandchildren.

“We also have a shore house,” Regan said. “It will definitely be nice not to have to wait until 4 p.m. on a Friday to go down. Now I can go whenever I want.”

Observer Photos By Jim Hague

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Kevin A. Canessa Jr. is the editor of and broadcaster at The Observer, a place where he has served on and off since 2006. He is responsible for the editorial content of the newspaper and website, the production of the e-Newspaper, writing several stories per week (including the weekly editorial), conducting live broadcasts on Facebook Live, including a weekly recap of the news — and much more behind the scenes. Between 2006 and 2008, he introduced the newspaper to its first-ever blog — which included podcasts, audio and video. Originally from Jersey City, Kevin lived in Kearny until 2004, lived in Port St. Lucie. Florida, for four years until February 2016 and in March of that year, he moved back to West Hudson to return to The Observer full time. Click Here to send Kevin an email.