Over the past two weeks, two long-time crossing guards have become the talk of Cherry Hill Township.
Claire Bauman and Helen Nitz have both worked 50 years have crossing guards in Cherry Hill Township. They have received awards from Cherry Hill Township, the Cherry Hill Police Department and the Cherry Hill Board of Education. They have been featured on television. They’ve heard from a number of current and former students who remember them from when they attended elementary school.
Neither one of them ever thought they would get so much attention. After all, they are just doing their jobs.
“We never even gave it a thought to be honest,” Nitz said. “We were both just overwhelmed.”
“It was a surprise to both of us,” Bauman said.
Nitz and Bauman share a special relationship beyond being long-time crossing guards. The two have been best friends since elementary school. They attended St. Rose of Lima in Haddon Heights and Camden Catholic High School together.
The pair has been crossing guards in Cherry Hill Public Schools since 1965. In October of that year, Bauman’s husband, a patrolman for the Cherry Hill Police Department, came home one day and informed her the police were desperately in need of crossing guards. Bauman passed on the opportunity at first, but informed Nitz of the opening. Nitz decided to give it a try and began working a few days later.
In November, the police were still in need of crossing guards and Bauman finally decided to join.
Fifty years later, both women have helped thousands of Cherry Hill children spanning three generations walk to and from school. Bauman serves as a crossing guard as Horace Mann Elementary School, while Nitz works at A. Russell Knight Elementary.
Since word got out about Bauman and Nitz’s 50-year milestone, they have gotten extra attention from members of their respective neighborhoods.
“Neighbors are coming out at the corner,” Nitz said. “All day long, people drive by, roll their windows down on the car, saying ’50 years, wow!’”
“Every day, there’s somebody different,” Bauman said.
Over the past couple of week, both Bauman and Nitz said they’ve received congratulations from many different community members. Bauman even had someone ask for an autograph.
“One grandmother who brings her grandchildren to school, she saw my picture and said ‘I have to get your autograph,’” Bauman said.
Nitz said she’s heard from a number of community members.
“I got a couple cards,” Nitz said. “A lot of people wrote to me and said you’re an inspiration.”
Many people have used the word “inspiration” when talking about Bauman and Nitz’s service to the Cherry Hill community. Mayor Chuck Cahn described them as an inspiration for people of all ages during the township’s proclamation ceremony on Oct. 13.
At the Oct. 20 board of education meeting, Bauman and Nitz were honored alongside of other district employees who had 25 or more years of service in Cherry Hill Public Schools. Superintendent Joe Meloche described Bauman and Nitz as integral parts of their respective schools.
“They are icons within the Horace Mann and Russell Knight communities,” Meloche said.
Both women said they’ve enjoyed the attention they’ve received, but what made it even more special was being able to share it with each other.
“It’s just amazing because we’ve known each other since the first grade,” Nitz said.
“It makes it even more special that we could do it together,” Bauman said.
Bauman and Nitz don’t have any plans to stop working any time soon. Both said they want to continue working at their respective schools for as long as possible.