No more ‘Chrissy crossings’: Crossing guard retires

BEVERLEA WALZ PHOTO Flower girl Makayla Cronin with mom Susan presents a gift to Chrissy Gross on her last day after 31 years as the Shelter Island School’s crossing guard.
Flower girl Makayla Cronin with mom Susan presents a gift to Chrissy Gross on her last day after 31 years as the Shelter Island School’s crossing guard.

What hasn’t changed for more than three decades on Shelter Island but now has come to an end?

It’s no secret to parents, many of whom accompany their children to school. Their sons and daughters, over almost two generations, have become what Rachel Brigham calls “Chrissy crossers.”

Chrissy Gross guided her last child across the often busy Route 114 outside Shelter Island School Friday and will take home her final paycheck from the district on December 30.

Ms. Brigham remembers Ms. Gross at the crosswalk outside the school the day she entered kindergarten, 31 Septembers ago, which was Ms. Gross’s first year in the crosswalk. This year, when Ms. Brigham brings her 4-year-old daughter to pre-school, there is Ms. Gross, still ensuring safe passage for young students.

“It’s like an era has passed,” said school clerk-typist Donna Clark. Ms. Gross has been on the job so long that the only other person Ms. Clark can remember holding the job was Onie Byington.

What Ms. Clark will remember most about Ms. Gross is that every day, “She always has a smile on her face.”

Donning her Santa hat, which has been her tradition on the last day of school before the Christmas break, Ms. Gross was treating last Friday like any other day. But for some who stopped to give her flowers and wish her well, there was no hint that when students return in January, Ms. Gross won’t be back in that crosswalk.

Anyone who has watched her for even a few minutes can clearly see this has not been just a job to Ms. Gross.

Her interaction with students and parents as they trek to and from the Shelter Island Presbyterian Church parking lot to the school has always been joyous and animated. She clearly knows and likes these people and they know and trust her, regularly stopping to talk or at least to wave a happy greeting to the woman to whom they have long entrusted their children.

She’ll be a difficult person to replace because she clearly has eyes in the back of her head, said one parent. Somehow, no matter which way she was turned, she was aware of who was attempting to cross from where and what vehicles were approaching her crosswalk.

And you didn’t mess with her by failing to slow your vehicle — you were going to get a unique Chrissy tongue-lashing, the parent said.

If you envied her outdoor job on warm spring days, remember, she has been out there through brutal winter weather and heavy rains for 31 years. No picnic, that assignment.

The reluctant Ms. Gross “doesn’t do interviews,” she said, while admitting she was scheduled to sit down with a reporter from The Inlet, the school paper.

“But that’s because it’s the kids,” Ms. Gross said. Inlet adviser Devon Treharne said even getting Ms. Gross to agree to that was difficult.

While Ms. Gross isn’t talking, it’s known that retirement doesn’t mean she’ll be sitting around eating bon bons. She’ll still be running her Two South Ferry B&B and attending to property management responsibilities on the Island.

“The community is very fortunate to have such a dedicated person to safely cross our children for so many years,” said Police Chief Jim Read. “She will be missed by all.”

And if last Friday was like any other pre-Christmas crossing for Ms. Gross, it wasn’t for the students who marked the day by giving her a party at the school.

“End of an iconic career,” said School Superintendent Leonard Skuggevik.