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I drive by the corner of Ashwood Drive and Rochester Avenue in the mornings on my way to work and there is a crossing guard who waves at everyone passing car in the morning. He seems to be one of the most cheerful people in Iowa City. Who is he? What’s his story? – Kieran, Iowa City, via email.
“I didn’t start waving to be friendly,” Dan Berry told Little Village, between smiles and waves at cars. “When I first started, cars we’re going up and down Rochester pretty fast. So, I thought that if I waved, they’d realize that there is a school crossing guard here, and maybe they’d slow down a little.”
It worked. Drivers noticed Berry smiling and waving. They smiled and waved to him. The cars slowed down. Mission accomplished.
“So, I quit waving. But everybody kept waving at me, so I started waving back at them,” Berry said.
That was seven years ago. Berry has kept waving and smiling, so have the drivers. And so have the kids Berry helps across the road.
“I get kids who say it makes their day, if I wave and smile at them,” Berry said, with a little chuckle.
Berry describes himself as “sort of retired.” He and his wife Carol used to own and operate Joe’s Place, one of the oldest bars in Iowa City.
“My wife and I bought it in 1964,” Berry said. “We owned it for 36 years, and sold it in 2000.”
Carol, who is also sort of retired, is responsible for Berry becoming a crossing guard.
“She’s been a crossing guard — she’s over at Horace Mann — longer than I have,” Berry said. “She thought doing this was a good way of getting me up and moving, so she talked me into trying it.”
Asked if he plans to continue his guard duties, and his waving and smiling, Berry said, “Yeah, as long as my health’s good.”
“I like it, I like the kids. It’s enjoyable. It gets me out of the house.”