ROUND ROCK, Texas (KXAN) — On a cool Thursday morning, a man dressed in a suit, bow tie and Santa hat stood at an intersection in Round Rock, waiting for traffic to stop.
“Alright,” he yelled, stepping into the crosswalk when the light turned red, “rock and roll, let’s go!” A group of students, trudging to their middle school as sunlight tried to break through a blanket of clouds, passed him in the middle of the street. “Good morning, good morning, good morning!”
“People like this is what we need every morning,” Jessi Mendez said after dropping her two kids off at Hernandez Middle School.
For many who see him in the mornings, the crossing guard is a ray of sunshine on Sunrise Road. “How are we doing today? Yeah, it’s a good day!” he said to another group of students. “Hey, come on, put some pep in your step!”
Mr. Bob, as he’s known, carries the standard-issue stop sign in one hand, a laminated piece of paper displaying a big smiley face and the words “good morning” in the other, and an even bigger smile on his own face. “Everybody needs a little love,” he said.
“He’s a genuine class act,” Lyndsey Pounds said.
“Sometimes I feel like I want to give him a gift because he gives me this smile in the morning, you know?” Mendez said.
To Mr. Bob, the gift he gets is the one he provides. “Give somebody a smile and they’ll give someone else a smile,” he said between trips into the road to greet students on their way to school. “It’s a beautiful morning. You’d be surprised how people respond to that.”
A couple months into the gig (after the last crossing guard left), Mr. Bob spends the 20 minutes he’s on the corner waving his sign at passing cars, smiling and wishing them a good morning. Drivers wave and honk, and one pulled over Thursday morning so her student could give Mr. Bob some candy.
Then the light turns red, and it’s back to business. “Let’s put some pep in our step, man! Y’all look like y’all in a parade this morning!” he joked with a group crossing the street.
Mr. Bob, retired from both preaching and 20 years in the Air Force, has been teaching special education full-time at Hernandez for the last five years. He volunteered to take over the crossing guard duties from his boss while they found a permanent solution.
“When he saw me out there,” Hernandez principal Nachelle Scott said, “he was like, ‘Oh no, Ms. Scott, you can’t be out doing the crossing guard! You have some other things to do.”
“Just a good guy from his heart,” Dwayne White, also a Hernandez parent, said.
“You never know where people are coming from in the morning,” Mr. Bob said. “You know, maybe they had a hard night, maybe this morning the kids wasn’t acting right. So for the parents, and waving this [sign] to let them know they’re doing a great job also.”
But Mr. Bob is wrapping up his stint on the street, preparing to pass the reins to a permanent replacement. Thursday was his first day training his replacement, going over best practices and the timing of the traffic lights at the intersection.
“I’m going to miss it,” he said. “But I get [the students] inside” the halls, where his colleagues say he’s just as cheerful.
“In my line of work I deal with a lot of difficult situations, and no matter what, I walk down the hallway he always has a hug ready,” Pounds, who works throughout the school district, said.
And though his time bringing smiles to passing drivers is coming to a close, his smiling sign will stay with the new crossing guard and he’ll continue his work in Round Rock classrooms.
“He’ll find another place for parents to see him and for him to connect with kids,” Scott said, “’cause that’s just what he does.”
Students won’t see Mr. Bob’s sunshine fade from their lives. “Hey, pass the love on,” he said. “It’s important to know that every day is an important day. You don’t know if it’s the last day of your life, so why not live it to the fullest, you know, and make it count?”