Billy Weldon didn’t know what was going on Tuesday morning when Marshall Elementary School principal Janelle Reasor asked him to be at the school for a 10 a.m. staff meeting, but he isn’t in the habit of saying no to anything that involves the school where he has volunteered as the crossing guard every morning and afternoon for the past 13 years.
“Today it was announced during a staff meeting that I won America’s Favorite Crossing Guard 2020," Weldon said. "I’m so in shock. It’s the greatest honor I’ve had apart from getting the Purple Heart. I just love Marshall, I love Flagstaff and I love everybody here.”
During the school year, Weldon had been nominated by Reasor for a national online contest run by Safe Kids Worldwide for communities to vote for their favorite crossing guard.
“The entire community rallied to push Billy into the top five of all of the nominees across the entire country,” Reasor said. "It was a three-week online nationwide vote. You could vote daily. Billy received 5,673 votes."
For Weldon, this recognition was an added bonus for a job he already adored.
“I won two bronze stars, I had one for meritorious service and one for heroism. This means more to me than those awards. Getting a little bit older in life, it just means more to me. These kids, everyday it just brings life to me and it brings life to the kids. They love me, I love them and I love Marshall. It’s just the best job I’ve ever had,” Weldon said shortly after hearing the news. “The recognition of the children that I work with is the most important thing to me, the bond with the kids. If they have a problem they ask me. When you’re 5 years old and you’re worried, it’s good to have a friendly face.
"It’s overwhelming what this means to me.”
Reasor said Weldon was one of the first people she met when she moved to Flagstaff, and shared her experience of getting to know him over the years.
“We met side by side on a pair of treadmills at the gym. After working out together he became my first friend, and when I chose Marshall for my kids, he was one of those familiar faces, which was really exciting for me," she said. "After having poured so much of my passion into the school, it’s only equaled by how much this man puts into these kids every morning and every afternoon. His passion for Marshall teachers, staff, kids, all of it... he is Marshall.”
Reasor added that Weldon's involvement with the school meant he was so much more than just the crossing guard.
“It’s been really great to include him in everything we have done," she said. "He was our speaker to talk to the kids about what it is to be noble this year and I can not think of a more noble person, a more noble man who really sets the example of what it is to be a true volunteer in every sense of the word.”
Weldon said he isn't planning on stopping anytime soon.
“Hopefully I’ll be the first crossing guard in a wheelchair," he said.
When asked why that was the case, he said, “Because when you get to be 95 years old and you can't walk, maybe they’ll give me a wheelchair so that I can still be the crossing guard. I’ll be the crossing guard here as long as they want me.”
The honors for Weldon kept coming on Tuesday.
“Mr. Billy Weldon is going to be the grand marshal for the graduates of 2020 (on Friday). It’s going to kick off at 10 a.m. with Flagstaff High School and he will lead in the Purple Heart truck as the graduates drive down Fourth Street to collect their diplomas," Reasor said. "He knows so many of those kids who are now graduates."
On what was already an emotional morning, the news that the school district wanted to honor Weldon in this way brought forth more emotion.
“It's pretty humbling to be the grand marshal of this because I graduated from Flagstaff High School in 1966 and so many of the kids from my class were killed in Vietnam. Twenty-two of them from Flagstaff, and all from Flagstaff High School. So it means a lot to me to be at this high school event,” Weldon said.
“It’s going to be a one-of-a-kind procession. I can’t think of anyone else to kick it off,” Reasor added.
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