Following in footsteps for safety

Not many employees are willing to put in two shifts on the weekdays. But for Dunkirk resident Lillian Napieralski, her job is a labor of love.

One of a small number of crossing guards from Silver Creek to Westfield, Napieralski has one week of work remaining before school is officially out for the summer. She can be found mornings and afternoons between Lucas Avenue and Seventh Street in front of Dunkirk’s School 4 on Central Avenue.

This September, she will mark a 10-year anniversary of helping elementary students get safely across the street.

“I love my kids,” she said Wednesday morning. “Many of them just say good morning, but I have a few who will stop and chat.”

Parents and children are not the only ones who notice her love of the job. “She leaves before me to come to work,” said Jeannine Peterson, office worker at School 4 who lives on the same street as Napieralski and her husband, Frank.

Her dedication to her job, however, comes with plenty of extremes, especially during the winter-weather months. “There’s a North wind that comes right off the lake,” she said. “I dress warmly those days.”

She also gets some assistance from a passing motorist many of those bitter mornings. “On the coldest days, Mr. (Charles) St. George and his wife drop off a cup of coffee,” she said.

The St. Georges are some of the many polite drivers and passengers she encounters outside the front portion of the school regularly. “I have motorists who know me every day,” she said. “It’s a joy.”

Unfortunately, there are rude ones as well.

Those are the ones who fail to abide by the 15 mph law in school zones and others who are stubborn about stopping to allow the children to cross.

“There are too many every day,” she said, noting the appearance of a scowling face or middle finger is not a surprise. “You just have to smile. What else can you do?”

Unfazed by the unhappy, Napieralski admits some of the other drivers can also bring discomfort. “They come close,” she said. “Too close.”

And despite the recently placed flashing signs warning motorists about the school zone, Napieralski said the real deterrent is having a city police vehicle nearby. “That’s when the traffic really slows down,” she said.

Slow enough for Napieralski and the schoolchildren to bid farewell until the next day. “The kids come and hug me,” she said. “That’s the best part.”

John D’Agostino is the OBSERVER publisher. Send comments to jdagostino@observertoday.com or call 366-3000, ext. 401.