Longtime crossing guard set to retire after 48 years
By Elizabeth Perry
During Dorothy “Dot” Bennett's 48-year tenure as a crossing guard in Stowe and then McKees Rocks, she saved a boy’s life, survived being hit by a car, and was even shot at while on duty.
This school year will be her final one as a crossing guard as she plans to retire in June.
“She has been a great asset to the police department working as a crossing guard at a very dangerous intersection for many years and I am lucky to have her,” McKees Rocks Police Chief Rick Deliman said via email.
McKees Rocks Councilman Vincent Corrie, once a Stowe police officer, said, he remembered Bennett working as a crossing guard when he attended Wilson School. Then, when he grew up, they became colleagues.
As a police officer, he would sometimes fill in for school crossing guards.
“It was an absolute necessity,” Corrie said. “What better way to have a relationship with the community members? You're seeing the kids, you're seeing the parents.”
Officer David English, a 25-year veteran of Stowe’s police force, has had a long friendship with Bennett. Bennett once was the crossing guard at the former Ohioview Acres public housing complex, which was razed in 2003 and rebuilt by the Allegheny County Housing Authority. English said it was a tough neighborhood. Bennett said when she was at her post, there would be shootings nearby.
When he would come by her stop, English said Bennett had the kids lined up by height smallest to tallest.
“I can't get the kids to do that and I'm in full uniform,” English said. “They listened to her beyond belief.”
On days when they were short-handed on crossing guards, English said Bennett would cross kids at her stop, then drive to an unwatched corner and make sure those children were safe, then she would drive back to her own post.
"She was just very dedicated, she loves all the kids in the town…," English said.
Recently, Stowe Commissioner Cheryl McDermott gave Bennett flowers to celebrate the anniversary of her first day as a crossing guard. She said Bennett has had a positive presence in the community for generations of kids.
“She knows so, so many people and she knows the history of so many people, the good and the bad,” McDermott said.
Bennett said she has helped generations of kids in the same families cross the street.
“I have a girl at my corner. She's 30, I crossed her and I crossed her kids,” Bennett said.
Carrie Good, a friend of Bennett’s who also volunteers with her on the McKees Rocks Events Committee, said Bennett used to volunteer with the Red Cross and helped organize transportation for families of prisoners at SCI Huntingdon in Huntingdon, Pa.
Bennett took part in the McKees Rocks Events Committee flea markets that were held in the Rite Aid parking lot at Chartiers Crossing to raise money for students.
“If a kid comes up to her stop without a coat on, she’ll go out and buy them a coat,” said Bennett’s daughter, Tera Haley. “Or shoes, or a bookbag…”
According to Bennett, she ushers fewer kids across the street than she did before; they’re mostly students from Propel schools, Sto-Rox Upper Elementary and the Primary Center.
“To be in that high-traffic area and make sure none of them kids get hit by a truck or a car I mean, I admire that,” said Good.
In 2011, Bennett pushed Zachary Pike out of the way of an oncoming car. She had a broken leg and her knee was shattered during the accident, Tera said.
“I came in when she got hit by the car and got over at Russellwood (Avenue),” English said.
The student’s grandmother, Susan Hine, was by his side. She told the Tribune-Review that if it wasn’t for Bennett, he would have ended up under the car and would’ve gotten really hurt.
Good said the young man is now in college, but she believes his family still lives in McKees Rocks.
“He’s thriving, I know that,” Good said.
After the incident, Bennett had to have several surgeries. Haley said her mother’s recovery was long, and she had to live with her for a while.
“She went through a horrible time,” Haley said.
Bennett worked in Stowe from 1975 until her resignation on Aug. 6, 2012. Bennett said at the time she was pressured to resign because of insurance liability issues.
“She wanted to come back to us, but they were concerned about her age and health,” English said.
Deliman said Bennet began working for McKees Rocks in 2015, prior to his becoming chief. She’s continued to protect children on a particularly dangerous corner for the past eight years.
“She cares deeply for the kids at her stop and is constantly worried about their safety,” Deliman said.
The feeling seems mutual. Bennet said the people on her street are friendly; they give her hugs and treats at the holidays.
“The kids I have are great,” Bennett said.
McKees Rocks Mayor David Flick said the council is working on something to celebrate Bennett’s retirement, but he’s not sure what it will be yet.
Sto-Rox Superintendent Megan Van Fossan said the school board plans to honor Bennett in May.
“She is an important part of the Sto-Rox family,” Van Fossan said.