It seems like anyone who regularly walks along Murray or Beacon Avenues in Squirrel Hill knows Sis Lloyd. That’s because every school day for the last 20 years, Rosemarie Lloyd, widely known as Sis, has started her day at 6:45 a.m. on the corner of Murray and Beacon, enthusiastically placing her body in front of moving cars to help pedestrians cross the street. Last week, Sis celebrated her official retirement after more than 21 years as a Pittsburgh crossing guard, most of which she spent conducting traffic at Squirrel Hill intersections.
“As soon as the light turns yellow, I get out there. I see [cars] coming and put my hand up or blow my whistle or something to make sure they don’t come through the intersection, but some of them inch up on you,” Sis, 71, tells Pittsburgh City Paper. “And when the kids are crossing, it’s scary for them, and it sort of upsets me sometimes … even older people, they’re afraid.”
Lloyd greets at least five individuals by name as she stands in the rain at 7 a.m. on one of her last days at work. One man walking by stops to wish her well and tell her his “walks up here won’t be as nice” without her.
“I’ll miss you, too, Richard,” Sis returns.
Reflecting on her time protecting Squirrel Hill residents from impatient and sometimes reckless motorists, Lloyd tells City Paper that she’s had the privilege of watching “her kids” grow up and have their own kids, who she now happily escorts across the same street she once walked their parents.
On Thursday, her last day of work, dozens of people gathered in the afternoon heat at Sis’ corner to watch her receive a proclamation from Pittsburgh City Council honoring her years of service and declaring June 16, 2022, Sis Lloyd Day.
“Crossing guards are out every single day, no matter the weather, to help children safely cross the street,” councilor Corey O’Connor read from the proclamation he introduced during the brief ceremony. “Sometimes facing adversarial, dangerous, and hostile conditions in the performance of her duties, Sis Lloyd placed the safety of the children and the safety of the community first and foremost.”
Sis says traffic conditions have definitely gotten worse during her time as a crossing guard. “When the light turns red, three cars go through the red light. Or if it turns yellow, they tramp on the gas to try to get through it,” she says.
“People don’t have patience around here, that’s the main thing,” she adds. “Everybody’s in a big hurry. If they gave themselves five extra minutes, it might be better for them.”
Sis grew up in Carrick and says she still remembers crossing guards from when she was a school kid, especially Rose Fox, a long-time crossing guard who died in 2018. It seems clear that many Squirrel Hill children in turn will remember Sis’ positive influence as they one day grow old.
“One of the rabbis came down the other day with his family and he said, ‘Six more days! You can change your mind.’ I said, ‘No, I can’t. I already signed my pension papers.’ And his little boy was with him, and he said, ‘We're gonna protest!’ It was so cute because he's only about this big, you know, and I just laughed. I said, ‘Really?’”
In her retirement, Sis says she looks forward to spending more time with her kids and grandkids as well as celebrating her 50th wedding anniversary with her husband, who works for the IRS.
Sis is not the only crossing guard retiring this year, according to Pittsburgh school crossing guard supervisor Donna McManus, who works for a division of the Department of Public Safety. Sis says when she started in 2001, there were almost 300 crossing guards. McManus says this year, the city had just 64 crossing guards, including Lloyd and “a few” others who are retiring. Of Sis, McManus says “her compassion and dedication is just incredible.”
McManus adds that, although she works with Pittsburgh Public Schools to make the most effective use of their available crossing guards, “There's always a need for more crossing guards in the city.”
She says the city’s crossing guards are an “incredibly dedicated, committed group of people” who “go above and beyond on many occasions to make sure that kids stay safe. We’re responsible for keeping all of the kids in the city safe, no matter what school they go to.”
When O’Connor finished reading Sis Lloyd’s proclamation, someone in the crowd suggested she say something. Looking at everyone assembled to celebrate her, Sis began to tear up.
“All the little school kids, I love you guys,” she said, “and that’s it.”