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Crossing kids, doing the wave

Buffalo school crossing guard Antonietta "Nita" Lobuzzetta gives the "white-glove treatment" by waving to drivers and pedestrians passing her corner at Parkside Avenue and North Drive. It's her way of saying "Good morning," and for 35 years this diminutive woman has been as much a school-time staple as a composition notebook. This summer, Lobuzzetta, 82, received an award from Buffalo Homecoming marking her years of community service.

PeopleTalk: How does one become a crossing guard?

Antonietta Lobuzzetta: I applied at City Hall. My kids were at St. Joe's and the tuition was steep, so I decided to look for a job. My husband was a Buffalo police officer, retired for 22 years. I wanted a job close to home so I could take care of my boys.

PT: There's nothing like a "Good morning" to start the day.

AL: That's what I did in Italy, said "Good morning" to everybody. I came here from Naples when I was 20 to marry my husband. We've been married 62 years, and we have two sons and five grandsons.

PT: Such an adventurer you are.

AL: My dad, he didn't want me to come here. We weren't allowed to date anyone in uniform, whether they were Italian or not. We were told they would have a good time and then break your heart.

PT: You act as the eyes of the children. What are you looking for?

AL: Safety. Make sure the children are where they're supposed to be, looking to see they stay on the curb. A lot of cars don't stop.

PT: How do you encourage safe behavior?

AL: By talking to the children. One year I had a 5-year old, and she didn't understand. I said, "Listen to me. You might get hit by a car. You can't step off the curb. You must wait there for me until I can get to you." So it's winter, and she comes to the corner for the bus -- no gloves, no jacket -- and she's crying. She asked for my gloves, but I couldn't give them to her, so I rub her hands. It was a very cold morning, and she had sneakers on. Later I gave her a pair of children's gloves.

PT: It can get cold out on the corner.

AL: Lately, if it's very, very bad and I have no students coming yet, I go for maybe five minutes in the car. When I was younger, it really didn't bother me at all, the cold. I'm getting up there and I do feel it. I put hand warmers in my gloves. It helps. A lot of people ask directions. This man appeared at my window and he handed me a cup of coffee. He said: "I've been waving at you for five years. Keep warm." I don't even know this man. It's hard to see in a car.

PT: Many drivers find you a familiar sight, you know.

AL: And they are always respectful. One guy stops his car, and he says: "I want to marry you." I said, "Sorry," and he said: "I'll wait." I laughed, and I thought he's going to wait a long time. Another man crosses the street, rolls down the window, and said his dog wanted to say good morning. I said: "Good morning, dog." Another one won't stop beeping his horn, his way of saying good morning, I guess.

PT: You have this personality that people seem to like.

AL: Maybe it's the way I was brought up. I don't know. We were always kind and respectful, that's all. My grandmother was an opera singer. My grandfather played the violin, and I used to love to sing. I would get up in the morning and start singing.

PT: Did you ever consider another kind of job?

AL: I've had so many jobs. I was here three months without even talking English. All I could think was that I wanted to make money to visit my family.

PT: How do you stay so young?

AL: I'll tell you, I don't do much. I put moisture cream on my face, whatever is cheap. I do my own hair, that's it. I have no secret. If I did, I would sell it and make money.

PT: Have you noticed a difference in the children you've crossed over the years?

AL: Really, I can't complain, maybe the way they dress sometime -- dungarees with holes, or really low pants. They're going to lose them.

PT: What has been the biggest change in your job?

AL: Buses, because there are less children to cross. Now you just have the children around the area crossing. When there were no buses, there was a multitude of children.

PT: You must have crossed children who now have children of their own.

AL: Yes, I have a lot of them come by. Little Mickey used to wait for the bus. Well, little Mickey came two years ago to visit me. He told me he was going to get married. He moved to South Carolina. You know what else is wonderful? When parents roll down the windows so their children in the back seat can wave. I had a 9-year-old -- it was Christmas time -- the mother stopped the car to give me a miniature champagne bottle.

jkwiatkowski@buffnews.com

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