Three years ago, a young boy named Cody called out hello from the car window to a crossing guard at the corner of Chestnut and York not knowing that he would inspire that crossing guard to spread joy waving to every parent and child that passes by.
“It started with a boy named Cody. He would say hello in the morning and then one day his father stopped and asked my name. I told him Ed and from then he yelled my name. Hello Ed! I like the kids. That’s what started all this, a tiny hand coming out the window. That’s what started me waving,” said Ed Rios, Crossing Guard at Lufkin ISD.
For those who pass by on Chestnut, you’ve seen Ed Rios sitting in or standing by his maroon pickup truck with his friendly smile and voracious wave.
“I wave whether there are children in the car or not,” he said.
Although he lives across the road, he drives his truck to work arriving a little before 7 a.m. to man his post. From 7 to 8:30 a.m. and then again from 2:45 to 4:15 p.m., Ed Rios is safely crossing students who are going to either Lufkin Middle School or Kurth Primary. As he walks the students, he offers a little advice along the way.
He said, “The ones that walk from the middle school, I talk to them. I ask them about school and what their plans are. A lot of them don’t know. What did you learn today? I tell them when they go to high school, it’s the biggest change of their life. It’s where they will make lots of memories.”
Mr. Rios hasn’t always been a crossing guard but began the position about three years ago when the previous crossing guard, Mr. Joe, retired.
He said “Joe Elliott was the crossing guard at the corner and then he retired. I would talk to him, bring him coffee before going to work. He said ‘maybe you can take over this spot when I retire’.”
Before taking the crossing guard position, Mr. Rios worked for the Texas Highway Department for 19 years and 7 months as an Inspector for the Maintenance Department. Before that, he served in the United States Air Force for 20 years retiring after an eye injury that would make it impossible for him to do his job as an aircraft loadmaster. The loadmaster was responsible for the operation of airdrops.
While in the Air Force, he was stationed in Homestead, Florida; Kadena, Okinawa (where he says was probably his favorite place that he visited); Tinker Air Force Base in Oklahoma; Little Rock Air Force Base; Germany (during the Persian Gulf), United Arab Emirates (for 9 months during the war); and back to Little Rock where he retired in 1993. He was a loadmaster on the C-130. He was in charge of the weight and balance for the airplane that would carry items like jeeps, tanks, supplies and sometimes even bombs.
“I got grounded after the Persian Gulf. I had a problem with my eye. That’s why I got out. If I couldn’t fly, I didn’t want to be there,” he said.
He talked about some of his experiences on the aircraft and how they had a few close calls, but they were well-trained for any emergencies. He said the aircraft could hold up to 152,000 pounds including fuel and 175,000 in war time.
“It required a lot of math. I used a slide ruler. It wasn’t hard, I went to school for that. When I left Little Rock they were coming out with a little calculator that you could punch in the numbers and it would give you what they called a ‘moment’. They probably have computers that do it today,” he said.
Mr. Rios was born in Rocksprings, Texas in the Hill Country, northwest of San Antonio. His family moved to Hondo, Texas where all of his family still lives today.
“When I was in school, I didn’t know what I wanted to do. I had three choices: Air Force, border patrol or a police man. My dad was in the army in World War II. I’m the only one that left Hondo out of three sisters and one brother. They all live in Hondo. I didn’t want to stay in Hondo. I wanted to see the world so I joined the service. Flying in the Pacific, I traveled quite a bit,” he said.
He and his wife, Patsy, have been married since 1983. They met in Little Rock at the Moose Lodge. They have two dogs, little chihuahuas and travel to Little Rock where Patsy’s family lives. They also visit Jacksonville, Florida to see family. Mr. Rios enjoys yard work and Googling up on military interests.
Mr. Rios is always thinking of ways to connect with the students he crosses.
He said, “At the end of the year, all the kids who have walked through there, I give them a challenge coin. One has the pledge of the allegiance, one a C-130, one the Saint Christopher – the saint of safe travel. I buy these at the base. There are different types, different coins.”
Even though a little boy named Cody helped start Mr. Rios waving, the students like a boy named Henry keep him going.
He said, “Henry goes to Kurth. He wanted to meet me. His mother brings him by on Fridays. I ask him what he did in school. He tells me how he’s excited about having a baby brother or sister.”
It’s these connections from staff to student that make Lufkin ISD a special place.
Thank you, Mr. Rios, for taking time to wave, smile, and connect with our students. Your enthusiasm does not go unnoticed.