Dorothy "Dot" Larsen has looked left and right for the final time on behalf of St. Stephen Elementary School students.
After a 35-year career, Larsen retired as the school's crossing guard last Friday – a milestone that drew accolades from the community in St. Stephen.
Not only could Larsen be found outside the school helping students cross the street for more than three decades, but she also dressed up as the school's bee mascot during monthly morning assemblies, said retired principal Colleen Winchester.
"Dot is just full of life and a joy to be around," Winchester said. "I think she is like an angel amongst us."
Winchester and Larsen share a special connection as they started their jobs at the same time – 1987 – and also both retired in 2022.
Larsen was involved in celebrating almost every kid's birthday at the school, bringing in "a little envelope with a message for happy birthday and a couple of little suckers in it," Winchester said, adding the kids looked forward to her envelopes.
After walking across the crosswalk for the last time last Friday, Larsen said she feels sad about retiring.
"It's too soon yet, my heart is still too full," she said.
Her journey started as the school's crossing guard when her own son was in elementary school. He once came home and said, "Mom, we crossed that big road on our own."
This worried Larsen so much that she called the Town of St. Stephen asking if she could put her name in to be the school crossing guard. She was asked to start the next day at 8 a.m. When that school year was about to end in two months, Larsen said she called back to apply for a permanent position for the next fall and town staff told her, "Why put your name in when you are already the school guard?"
She never left after that.
Larsen has seen generations of students come through the school and has an award – the Dot Larsen Kindness Award – named after her, Winchester said.
The award was created for students finishing Grade 5 and advancing to middle school as a part of the school's closing ceremony awards, she said, noting it's awarded to a child that displays qualities of positivity, kindness and humility like Larsen.
Larsen said that after having surgery this summer, she lost her crossing guard vest in the process of moving her residence, but last Friday, the town presented her with a brand-new vest filled with pins. That's on top of the more than a thousand cards she received from elementary, middle and high school students when she was in the hospital.
Larsen said she never expected the popularity she has received and will miss her school.
"She is a very loved and adored lady, and she's gonna be very missed around the school," Winchester said. "There's no doubt about it."
Rhythm Rathi, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Telegraph-Journal