Last Wednesday, the faculty, staff and students at Wyman Elementary School surprised their crossing guard William Thomas with a party to celebrate his 90th birthday.
“Was I surprised? I certainly was,” said Thomas during a phone interview yesterday. “I thought they were gonna tell me to leave.”
Thomas, whose actual birthday was yesterday, Feb. 17, said he really did not expect anything but thought it was a very nice gesture on the part of the school.
During his life, Thomas worked in the fire protection industry and as a state police officer for a few years. Shortly after he retired, he saw an ad in the Warwick Beacon for crossing guards. “I was 75. I said, ‘I think I’ll go down and apply,’” said Thomas, adding that he and his wife Patricia had no plans to travel during their retirement; they were more interested in staying home and enjoying their time. “The next day, they called me back and I got the job.”
Thomas recalls what Patricia, who passed away eight months ago at age 78, said when he brought up applying for the job. “She said, ‘They’re gonna laugh at you.’ The next day, guess what? They hired me,” said Thomas.
The two were married for 57 years and had three children.
Thomas started his time as a crossing guard at Warwick Veterans Memorial High School before moving throughout the schools in the district; he has been a crossing guard at Wyman for about two years.
“They’re nice kids,” said Thomas about the students at Wyman that he looks out for.
Thomas said he enjoys getting to see the kids every day and working as a crossing guard gives him something to do each day to pass the time.
“I’ve met a lot of people. I’ve been at about every school in the district,” said Thomas, who grew up in Warwick and graduated from Gorton High School in 1943.
Thomas remembers his parents had to pick up his diploma because he left school in February of 1943 to serve in the Army in World War II. He volunteered at 18 years old, and was deployed to the Pacific as a member of the 41st Infantry Division. Thomas served for two years, earning a Bronze Star, which was only recently given to him 65 years later. He was shot while saving two fellow soldiers.
While he does work as a crossing guard every day during the school year; he does have summers off to enjoy the pool in his backyard and he does still go golfing twice a week; although he is waiting for warmer weather before heading to the golf course again.