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A BELOVED GUARD CROSSES INTO RETIREMENT

Norma Orlikowski has ushered Maryvale children across the road for 28 years, but this great-grandmother has crossed the last child and hung up her uniform.

"I'll miss the kids very much," Orlikowski said recently of her retirement.

Wednesday was her last day, and she helped pupils cross busy Union Road at Maryvale Drive just as if it were any other day.

"She's an angel. She passed out candy for different holidays," said one father whose children walked to Maryvale schools. "She's been such a wonderful crossing guard."

Frank Piacente, who supervises crossing guards for the Town of Cheektowaga, gives her high marks.

"She's reliable. She was always there," he said. "She even showed up in the snowstorms."

Being outside in all kinds of weather every morning and afternoon is one of the things she will miss about her job, she said. But winter weather is one reason she decided to retire.

"Being older now, I can't take the cold," she said.

Orlikowski, 65, has been stationed at several locations over the years, all in the Maryvale School District. Her secret to keeping warm in the winter includes leg warmers and plenty of layers of clothing. Her husband, Bronislaus, sometimes accompanied her on the snowiest mornings.

Orlikowski, who has two children, five grandchildren and three great-grandchildren, is a two-generation crosser, often shepherding the children of students she had crossed years earlier. She knows all their names.

"Maybe not the last names, but I know their first names," she said.

She recalls just one close call, years ago when she was at George Urban Boulevard and Nagel Drive.

"I'll always remember it," she said. "There was a little girl, and she was darting out, and I grabbed her around her waist."

After rising at 5 a.m. for nearly three decades to get to the corner, she says she thinks she probably will sleep in Monday morning. She has started making good on one of her post-retirement plans.

"I'm already taking piano lessons," she said. "I always said when I retire I'm going to take piano lessons."

e-mail: bobrien@buffnews.com

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