Sunday, October 17, 2021

Crosswalk Companions: Crossing guard and neighborhood teen form lasting bond

You know you’re a fixture in the community–or maybe even a landmark–when you show up in a Google Map street view.

Meet Phyllis Walden. Phyllis is 88.

For the past 17 years, Phyllis’ “street view” is the intersection of Briarhill Boulevard and Rosedale Street and two strategic crosswalks next to McAuliffe Elementary School in Highland Village.

Each school day, crossing guard Phyllis–“Miss Phyllis” to the hundreds of children who know her–takes her place at that corner and accompanies students safely across the street before and after school.

“She’s quite the staple in the community,” said parent Laura Milum, whose three children attend McAuliffe. “She just keeps coming back.”

“I just like the kiddos,” said Phyllis, who started as a crossing guard 17 years ago. “I just love them.”

Phyllis Walden has been manning her post at a busy Highland Village crosswalk for the past 17 years. (Photo by Lynn Seeden)

And for the past nine years, Phyllis has had a daily companion in former student Karsten Condron, who lives a few doors away from the intersection. He has been there daily for years to help her set up her chair, put up an umbrella to protect her from the Texas heat and rain–but most importantly–to offer camaraderie.

“He just graduated from high school, but he’s been helping me since he was in the third grade,” Phyllis said.

Condron attended McAulliffe, then went to Briarhill Middle School and just graduated from Marcus High School.

“I’ve always wanted to help out people,” said Condron, now 18. “I’ve always had an appreciation for the older generation. I just enjoy time with her, and I like to help her out.”

On a recent Monday, Condron handed out four dozen cupcakes–purchased by his mom, Lonna, at Nothing Bundt Cakes–to schoolchildren as they walked home with their parents.

Condron will start college at Louisiana Tech Sept. 9 and said he hopes to major in biology. “I want to study something that terrorizes me,” he said.

How dedicated to Phyllis is he? Louisiana Tech is on a quarterly system, giving students two weeks off between quarters. Karsten plans to return home during his breaks and be there for Miss Phyllis.

Phyllis said she worked several jobs during her career while raising eight children.

“That was a full-time job itself,” she said.

As for her future as a crossing guard, Phyllis admits, “I say every year that I’m not coming back, but I always do.”

If she does, you know Condron will be there. He may even have cupcakes.

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