First person: Crossing with care

CNJ staff photo: Liliana Castillo Leonard Gilbert Freitas is the crossing guard for Zia Elementary School.

Leonard Gilbert Freitas, 76, is known by his friends, colleagues and family as Gil. But as the crossing guard for Zia Elementary School, he is known as Mr. Leonard.

In sickness and in health: I used to do heavy work. But one day, I was walking along and my leg almost gave out on me. Found out I had a 90 percent blockage in my carotid artery. I had to stop that kind of work.

On the move: My wife and I move to Clovis in 1996 — from Louisiana — to be close to my daughter and her husband, who was stationed at Cannon Air Force Base. I stayed home for three years and couldn’t take it any longer. My daughter suggested I apply to be a crossing guard.

It feels good: Of all the jobs I’ve had, this one right here must be the most enjoyable one. When I see the kids everyday, it just makes me feel good.

All-weather guard: They don’t close the schools all the time in bad weather. We’re out here in all kinds of weather. I don’t mind the rain or snow so much. It’s the ice that worries me. And my hands get cold. I could have a garage sale on gloves alone. But I started getting these warm pads that keep my hands warm.

Extended family: I always talk to the kids and ask the how they’re doing. If I’m not here for a day, they’ll ask me the next time I see them where I was and if I’m OK. You’ve gotta get along with them.

Whistle works: I didn’t use to have a whistle. I would be yelling at kids and cars and I’d get so hoarse. Now with the whistle, the kids, parents, teachers, everyone freezes as soon as they hear my whistle.

Near misses: I’ve almost been hit three times. I’ll be walking kids across and looking one way and someone will just be going too fast and I didn’t notice until they are right on me. I’ve been lucky.

Mr. Dependable: I’m the first and last one the kids see when they come and go here. They depend on me, all of them.

— Compiled by CNJ staff writer Liliana Castillo