Jessica Del Preore said going out in Moorestown with her grandmother Sylvia Davis is a lot like venturing out with a local celebrity. Anywhere they go, someone seems to know her.
This was true of Friday, Sept. 27. Not 15 minutes into this interview, one of Davis’ former coworkers wandered up for a chat. Del Preore just turned and gave a knowing smile. This moment was exactly her point.
How is it that Davis came to attain local icon status? Well, the 88-year-old has walked across Moorestown for nearly the last 50 years serving as both a meter maid and crossing guard, and in all that time, she’s only missed three days of work. Davis only recently decided it was time for retirement after nearly half a century getting to know the residents of Moorestown.
Originally from Hammonton, Davis moved to Moorestown after marrying her husband, who was from the area. The pair settled down in Lenola where Davis still lives to this day. When her husband passed in the 1970s, Davis suddenly found herself a single mother providing for her son. Her next-door neighbor happened to be the chief of police at the time and suggested she give being a crossing guard a try.
Before long, they asked her if she was interested in doubling as meter maid. So, she passed the test and got to work. A naturally gregarious person, Davis quickly came to know her fair share of residents, and they began to recognize her right back.
“I know this town inside and out,” Davis said with a sly smile.
In addition to her natural warmth and charisma, Davis also has a bit of a cheeky streak running through her. She said when it came to ticketing, she was nothing short of fair looking up and down the street to see if anyone was coming and asking anyone passing by if it was their car. She said if people starting yelling or cursing at her, she simply walked away with a brisk “I’ve got work to do” in response.
To the children she crossed, she was often considered grandmother. At Christmas, there was no shortage of baked goods and kind words from Moorestown families. She said even to this day, grown adults whom she crossed as children will stop her.
Funnily enough, one of those children she helped cross became her supervisor at the Moorestown Police Department. Lt. Michael Maahs said he’s known Davis for nearly his entire life.
“Everybody that grew up in town or lived in town long enough knew Sylvia,” Maahs said. “She’s almost like a staple of Moorestown for so many years.”
Maahs said Davis has always been sweet and hard-working. When she became the supervisor of the crossing guards, Davis helped head off small issues on a daily basis before they were ever forwarded to Maahs. He said they had a close personal relationship with Davis regularly leaving him voicemails or coming in to chat about their work and each other’s lives. He said residents always had good feedback to give about Davis.
To date, Davis has retired three times, but she said this one is sticking. The previous times, she didn’t feel ready, so she’d come back to ask. They happily let her return to her work. But this time feels right, she said.
“She’s just always loved what she did, and so when you love something, it’s hard to leave it,” Del Preore said. “It’s just always made her happy. It’s just always given her that routine.”
With five grandchildren – and now three great grandchildren – she’s got plenty to occupy her time. A family-oriented person, she’s eager to spend time with the ones she loves, and she has no plans of slowing down.
“I’m not going to plant my a** and sit there,” Davis said with a good chuckle. “The hell with that.”