BERKELEY HEIGHTS, NJ - Berkeley Heights School District is in session and Anne Neale is at her post protecting the neighborhood children as they cross Plainfield Avenue and Rogers Place. At the age of 84 1/2, Neale proudly passed the required physical. The start of this school year marks her 47th year as a Berkeley Heights school crossing guard.
She enjoys protecting the children and pedestrians walking to and from school. "It gets me out, I meet people and make friends along the way," says Neale of the longevity in the job. "The children in Berkeley Heights are wonderful and seem happy. They are polite, show respect and listen to me."
She stated, "In the 47 years, I was only involved in one dangerous near miss. A car was traveling 70 miles per hour and skidded 90 feet and just missed me. I had to jump out of the way, and fell and hit my head. I was taken to the hospital in an ambulance."
Neale said that 95% of the drivers obey the traffic laws, the remaining 5%, there is too much speeding, texting, talking on the phone and drinking coffee while driving. "You can't believe what I see as a crossing guard," Neale said, "men shaving while driving." Some cars drive past her and wave, while she is standing in the middle of Plainfield Avenue with her stop sign up. Her reminiscent stories go back decades. Over the years, she has helped multiple generations of families walk to school.
Aside from her duties as a dedicated crossing guard, Neale enjoys writing poetry. She has been writing in a poetry ministry for the past 17 years. On average, she writes 6 poems a day, 1,500 a year. Her poems are included in newsletters that are emailed worldwide. She likes to hand deliver to the locals. Her poems share uplifting spiritual messages. "Helping people to feel good. When you're nice, it makes the world a better place. It's a ripple effect," Neale said.
School is now in session. Slow down, drive responsibly and obey the traffic signs of the school crossing guards.