SACO — The Fairfield School parking lot and playground were still empty Friday morning when Julie Lambert pulled in, early as usual for her post at the corner of James and Pond streets.

Homer Grant on the job Friday, his last day as a crossing guard in Saco. Patrick Ouellette/Staff Photographer

Already wearing her yellow reflective crossing guard vest, she pulled her stop sign out of her car and walked to her corner one final time. Nearby, 95-year-old Homer Grant got out of his pickup truck to assume his post at a crosswalk on Beach Street.

Grant and Lambert are hanging up their vests and retiring after 12 years as crossing guards near the Fairfield School, where Friday was the last day of class.

“I miss the kids already,” Lambert said, even before they started making their way to school. The day before she had handed out candy to the students as a goodbye gift.

Lambert, who lives in Old Orchard Beach and would not disclose her age, had been retired for four years from her job as an underwriter at MEMIC when she decided to become a crossing guard in Saco. Her late brother and sister-in-law, Renald and Connie Lambert, had been crossing guards and enjoyed the job and connections they had with local students.

“They talked me into it,” Lambert said.

Over the years, Lambert watched the students in the neighborhood grow from tiny kindergartners to high schoolers preparing to head off to college. That evolution was fascinating, she said.

“They’re getting taller, and I’m getting shorter,” she joked.

Saco police officer Amanda Condon, the K-8 school resource officer, said the elementary students love seeing Lambert every day.

Crossing guard Julie Lambert talks with the Posey family on Friday, her last day as a Saco crossing guard. Hailie Posey puts her hand on Lambert’s shoulder as Lucien hands Lambert a card. Lucien was on his way to his last day of kindergarten at Fairfield School. Shawn Patrick Ouellette/Staff Photographer)

“She’s always smiling. She knows most of them by name,” Condon said. “They seem to really enjoy her.”

Cpl. Theodore Gagnon said Grant and Lambert, along with the other 10 crossing guards in Saco, play a critical role by getting kids safely to and from school every day. The connections Grant and Lambert made with students remind Gagnon of his own fondness for his childhood school bus driver.

“You start as a little kid seeing these same people every day,” he said. “You get that level of comfort you should have with people involved in your schooling.”

Grant, who lives in Old Orchard Beach, served in the Army during the Korean War and retired from the Portsmouth Naval Shipyard at 81.

After becoming a crossing guard in Saco, Grant quickly became a familiar face to the students who walk along Beach Street to nearby schools. Unable to speak because of an issue with his vocal cords, Grant connected with students through smiles and waves.

Wearing a cap printed with “fishing is my occupation,” he stood on the sidewalk Friday with his stop sign as occasional passersby beeped their horns and waved to him. When a little girl with her hair in braids came running down the sidewalk, Grant walked briskly to the center of the road to stop traffic while she crossed.

Skyelaer Achorn, 12, hands Homer Grant a card as she crosses Beach Street in Saco with her brother Brayden, 9, on Friday. Grant, who is 95, retired after Friday, the last day of school. Shawn Patrick Ouellette/Staff Photographer

Celeste Hatch, who was arriving for work at the school department’s central office, walked over to wish Grant well in his retirement.

“I can’t believe we’re not going to see you anymore,” she told Grant as he greeted her with a smile.

Hatch said she saw Grant nearly every day for 12 years and still can’t quite believe he won’t be at his post next year.

“It’s great to see his smiling face every morning,” she said. “He’s an inspiration to be doing this as long as he has. He’s a happy guy and he’ll be missed.”

Skyeler Acorn, 12, stopped by Friday morning on her way to Saco Middle School to give Grant a card from her family. She went to Fairfield School when she was little and would cross at Grant’s crosswalk to get to the school playground.

“I think he is a really kind person to be doing this for a long time,” she said.

For years, Julie Lambert has worked as a crossing guard in Saco, helping elementary students get to school safely. She retired after the school day Friday. Shawn Patrick Ouellette/Staff Photographer

Grant may be retiring as a crossing guard, but he’s not done with work. He has been a custodian at Dayton Consolidated School for more than a decade and indicated with a raised finger and a grin that he’ll work there one more year.

“He is a gem,” said Kim Sampietro, principal at the Dayton school. “His work ethic is pretty impressive, for sure. He’s definitely loved around here.”

Back at the corner of James and Pond streets, Lambert was shocked when a school bus driver slowed to make the turn into the school and handed her a card. The children on the bus waved and yelled out the windows to the crossing guard, cheering for her on her last day.

“It’s kind of emotional. I’ve never had anything like that happen before,” she said. “I guess I was liked. I didn’t know that.”

As Lambert waited at her corner, she watched a father cross the street to take last-day-of-school photos of his daughter on their front steps. After snapping one last selfie, Nick Brunette and his 6-year-old daughter, Adalyn, held hands and waited for Lambert to stop traffic for them.

“My dad and I have matching shirts!” Adalyn Brunette called out to Lambert as they walked together back to the sidewalk.

A few minutes later, the Posey family made their way to Lambert’s crossing on their way to drop off 6-year-old Lucien for his last day of kindergarten. Lambert said she’ll miss seeing the Posey kids grow up.

“We see Julie every morning, rain or shine,” said Hailie Posey, who was walking home with 8-month-old Maris and 4-year-old Victor. “She always has a smile on her face.”

At 8 a.m., the Fairfield students made their way through the front doors of the school. Lambert, who would be back at her corner when they got out of school three hours later, said she’ll miss her job, but is looking forward to playing more golf and spending time at the local senior program.

“I felt like I had a purpose,” she said. “But I won’t miss getting up at 10 past 5 in the morning.”

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