COLONIAL HEIGHTS, Va. -- A school-year job has turned into a special lifestyle for Garnetta "Sue" Poe of Colonial Heights. After 49 years of her work as a school crossing guard, community members say they place a high value on her commitment and unique approach to the job.
"She is the greatest. She's out here every day, morning, afternoon, everything else, helping the kids cross," Lakeview Elementary grandparent John Kollmann said.
"She greets every child like it's her grandbaby," Lakeview Elementary School parent Melissa Paiz added.
Poe, who will turn 85 in September, has served as a crossing guard at the local high school, middle school and elementary school. But there's little doubt concerning which she would call her favorite: Lakeview Elementary. The feeling from the school is mutual, displayed by the way hugs and kisses are shared between Poe and school faculty, students and parents.
Like the school system, the city recognizes Poe's commitment. "A city employee for 49 years is just amazing," Colonial Heights Mayor Greg Kochuba said.
"A crossing guard that comes in in the morning, leaves and then comes back in the afternoon -- those jobs are tough to fill, much less find somebody that's done it 49 years," Police Chief Jeff Faries said.
After serving the community and schools for so long, Poe is hanging up her badge to undergo knee-replacement surgery. If it weren't for the procedure, Poe said she'd be back in the fall for another joyful year.
Finding someone to fill Poe's "irreplaceable" shoes will be quite difficult, Faries said. "She has touched the lives of children, parents and grandparents that have walked across these streets," Chief Faries said.
Parents and community members alike have shared how much she will be missed in the years to come. "You expect to see her face. We're going to miss her next year," said Kristen Shortt, a Lakeview Elementary parent.
"When you really sit down and think about the numbers and how long it's been and how many kids she's seen here, it's kind of mind-boggling," Lakeview Elementary Principal Patrick Neuman said.