Lyndon B. Johnson was president when Janet Haines first started serving as a school crossing guard in Falls Church, Virginia, in 1967.
Since she began the job, Haines, 91, has raised two sons, watched two grandchildren grow up, saw nine presidents get elected to office and had at least one student she helped guide return to work alongside her as a police officer.
On Wednesday, Haines was feted with a celebration in honor of her 50th anniversary.
“It was a complete surprise,” Haines told ABC News. “It was nice to hear them say they appreciated me.”
The surprise ceremony was organized by St. James Catholic School, an elementary school located in the City of Falls Church that has been the beneficiary of Haines’ 50 years of service.
“She’s just such an ambassador of goodwill for everybody who comes by on the corner,” said Sister Mary Sue Carwile, the principal of St. James. “She teaches us constancy and consistency and devotion to her job and to the people she meets with every day.”
The surprise began with Haines being greeted by St. James’ students holding balloons with the school’s colors. A celebration inside the school’s gymnasium included remarks by police officials, Sister Carwile and city officials.
“I wanted to just have an acknowledgement for her but also for everybody, to enjoy it and recognize it and to be able to see what one can person can do who is just dedicated,” said Sister Carwile.
Haines, who still lives on her own and drives, took the job after being a stay-at-home mom for her two sons.
“I was 8 when she started and my brother was 11,” said one of her sons, Jim Haines. “She just wanted a little job and it seemed like the thing to do and she was going to do it a few years and it added up after a while. She really liked it.”
It was fate that Haines ended up at the corner where St. James, home to around 465 students, is located.
“I was friends with a girl who told me that her sister-in-law was going to retire from that corner and I should go and interview for that corner so I did,” Haines said, recalling that she was nearly the same size as the woman retiring and was told by her future supervisor, “Well you can wear her clothes. You’re hired.”
Haines, who will turn 92 in May, made $3.10 an hour and wore a skirt as part of her uniform when she started.
She said she plans to keep working as long as she is physically able.
“I said I’d do the job so I’ve just continued,” Haines said. “It’s just a routine and it’s pleasant to do it.”
Haines’ supervisor, Corporal James Brooks, said it is Haines who keeps everyone else young.
“Her smile, her generosity towards the students at St. James School and her love for the job make everyone feel youthful,” Brooks told ABC News.
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