It’s hard not to smile when approaching the intersection of Barkley and Logan avenues in Throggs Neck on a school day. No, it’s not because the traffic is unusually light, but rather it’s the crossing guard, Ethel Vann, who makes it her mission to simply light up the entire area.
Whether you’re driving or on foot, you will be guaranteed a “Hello! Bless you! Have a wonderful day!” along with a thoughtful wave as Ethel gently ushers you safely across the street adjacent to St. Benedict’s School.
“Since God gave me another day I like to make someone else’s day,” the devout Pentecostal Christian crossing guard said.
It’s that cheery, guided optimism from Ethel that lights up the estimated 100 pedestrians, children and parents that encounter her daily.
Throggs Neck chiropractor Dave Kaseman parks his car near Ethel’s intersection each morning before heading into his office on East Tremont Avenue and gets that dose of sunshine everyday, even on rainy and snowy days.
“Seeing her smile just resets my day,” he said. “People go out of their way to stop and wave back at her,” the health care practioner continued.
One resident was so moved by the crossing guard’s cheerful demeanor that she surprised Ethel with a bouquet of flowers for bringing a smile to so many people throughout her day.
“You don’t know what people are going through and it’s important to make them feel loved, and they make me feel very loved too,” she said.
Ethel lives on East 233rd Street and White Plains Road and normally would have been assigned to an intersection in the 47th Precinct.
Fortunately for Throggs Neck, that precinct didn’t have room for another crossing guard.
“I’m so glad I am where I am, I wouldn’t want to be anywhere else and I love Throggs Neck and its people,” she said.
Prior to her days in uniform, Ethel was employed at a St. Christopher’s group home in Westchester, working with children of course.
Ethel doesn’t have any children of her own, though.
“They’re all my babies, the kids, the adults. Anyone I see and cross,” she happily mentioned.
As a matter of fact, Ethel even accompanies the mail carrier across the street, according to one parent Yvette Caldarelli.
Just as school is letting out in the afternoon, Ethel is often joined by Yvette and her eight-year-old son Giustino.
“We come out here to keep her company,” Caldarelli said. She explained that Ethel has inadvertently introduced her to almost the entire Throggs Neck community, since everybody stops to say hello to their favorite crossing guard.
“I don’t think I’ve ever seen her upset,” Caldarelli said.
That’s almost true, because there is one exception: if you are crossing Ethel’s intersection don’t jaywalk, as you might be given a talking to about ‘why she needs her babies crossing safely.’
“We all have problems but God gives us a solution,” Ethel said. “We have to love each other and sometimes that starts with a smile and wave,” the ‘joyful soul of Throggs Neck’ concluded.