NC School Surprises Crossing Guard on His 100th Birthday

GREENSBORO, N.C. (AP) -
Thomas Faucette smiles and claps as students sing ‘Happy Birthday’ to him during a celebration in honor of his 100th birthday at Peck Elementary School in Greensboro, N.C., Wednesday. (Kenneth Ferriera/News & Record via AP)

On his 100th birthday, crossing guard Thomas Faucette woke up at 3 a.m.

The World War II veteran had already celebrated with family and friends over the weekend. He didn’t know about the plans in motion.

A premonition — “just had a feeling,” he says — got him up early.

Some five hours later, Faucette grinned and doffed his cap to hundreds of Peck Elementary students in hand-decorated Happy Birthday hats.

They gathered outside with school and police department staff to show appreciation for Faucette, who has helped children cross the street for more than three decades and served the public for more years than many people live.

“He’s just a fantastic man,” said Cathy Robbins, a colleague with the police department, which oversees crossing guards stationed at local schools. “Sense of humor you would not believe.”

When school is in session, Faucette monitors morning arrival and afternoon departure from a lawn chair at the corner of Florida and Vanstory streets.

He waits, stop sign at the ready, for children or other pedestrians who want to cross the street.

Before the pandemic, Faucette would cross about 10 students on a typical day.

Now, it’s more like one to six, said Elizabeth Faucette, his wife of 51 years.

Still, the students are his favorite part of being a crossing guard. He loves it when they holler to him or mess with him in a friendly way.

“It’s fun,” he said.

Elizabeth is a retired Peck Elementary teacher, who has also substituted at the school.

She sometimes comes along for her husband’s shifts, and gets to see him in action with the students.

“Usually, in the morning, he will tell them, ‘Do good, have a good day,’ when they are crossing,” she said.

When the couple married in 1970, it marked a halfway point in his life.

crossing guard 100th birthday
Greensboro Police Chief Brian James presenting Thomas Faucette with an award during his 100th birthday celebration, Wednesday. (Kenneth Ferriera/News & Record via AP)

Before marrying Elizabeth he grew up in Greensboro, played halfback at Dudley High School, moved to Washington, D.C., served in France and Germany in the U.S. Army in World War II, took a job with the Federal Trade Commission and moved back to Greensboro to care for his ailing mother while working for the U.S. Postal Service.

At age 72, Elizabeth Faucette is 28 years his junior.

The second half of Thomas Faucette’s life involved raising two children with Elizabeth and, after retiring from the Postal Service in 1986, embracing a part-time career as a crossing guard in Greensboro.

He joined in 1988, according to the Greensboro Police Department. His first post was outside Bluford Elementary. Around 2000 he switched to the streets near Peck, Elizabeth Faucette said.

Peck principal Ashley Triplett said Faucette has been a steadfast presence.

“Rain, sleet, snow, ice, anything at all, he is out there,” she said. “Mr. Faucette is as consistent as the ringing of our school bells.”

When community members and other crossing guards let her know his 100th birthday was coming up, she knew she had to plan a celebration.

On Sept. 29, 100 of the children held two-dimensional “candles” made from brightly-colored construction paper that were nearly as big as some of the students.

A speaker blared music as the students waited for Faucette to walk from his corner to the front of the school.

Minutes earlier Faucette had accepted a plaque from Greensboro Police Chief Brian James in appreciation of his service with the department.

He was greeted at the school with a banner, balloons, $100, and a giant card that everyone signed.

Faucette even danced to the music as the children watched.

“I was so happy,” said second grader Erick Foote, “because it’s his birthday.”