If you happen to pass through the intersection of Coolspring and Carroll Ave. in Michigan City around 8 a.m., during the week, you’re going to smile – big. It’s impossible not to, because Willie Moore will be there with his bright yellow crossing guard vest and handheld stop sign, waving, dancing, and calling out a hearty “Hello, good people!” to everyone who passes.
Kids run to Moore and give him hugs. Parents wave back and honk their horns. And Moore feels like he knows them all, even if not by name.
“These are my kids,” he said. “I’ve learned who the children are, and I recognize the parents when I see them. When I took this job, I told them, ‘I will never let you down’ and I meant it,” Moore said.
It was hard to get Moore to chat in between ushering the littles across the street on the way to Joy Elementary School, and personally greeting every car that passed. His laughter and smile are infectious, and he exudes joy.
“It was given to me by Jesus Christ, so I gotta give it back to the people,” he said. “The joy of the Lord comes from here,” he said, putting his hand to his heart, “and no matter who you are, you can be loved. That’s what I’m here to do.”
Two young sisters, Alexis, 10, and Sahara, 5, ran up to Willie for hugs as they approached the intersection. They don’t even need to cross the street, but they love to meet up with him anyway.
“He’s silly and nice,” Sahara said.
Moore doesn’t really know how long he’s been a crossing guard. A native of Charleston, Mo., he retired from the Army after 20 years of service and moved to Michigan City with his wife Gloria in 1991. She, too, is a crossing guard across town, and they both volunteer with the Michigan City Emergency Management Agency.
“We help the police department out in certain situations. They need people to help and that way those hard-working officers can have some time with their families, too,” he said.
As we chatted on the sidewalk, the principal of Joy Elementary School, Lisa Suter, came through the intersection. They exchanged hearty waves. He also gave her a casual salute, in recognition of her family members who have served in the military.
“I honor her as the commander of that school,” Moore said. “She’s been put in the right place at the right time. She is doing wonderful things for the school.”
Moore’s Army career landed him overseas extensively. He’s traveled to Germany, Japan, China, and a handful of other places.
“I loved staying overseas because you learn how people who have absolutely nothing can make something. We are fortunate here and we take a lot for granted,” he said.
Moore met Gloria, his wife, in 1988 and they’ve been happily married ever since.
“I ain’t got tired of her yet,” he joked.
When he’s not spreading joy as a crossing guard or volunteering with the police department, Moore spends time with his family and rejuvenates his soul at First Baptist Church of Lakeland.
He stood a little taller and prouder when talking about his family.
“I’m a great grandpa,” he beamed. One of the tots lives locally and the others are out of town, but he’s equally proud of all the children in his life, including his own, no matter where they live.