There’s one thing Morenci Chief of Police Larry Weeks never has to worry about on school-day mornings. He knows Ralph Piercy will be on the job at the intersection of Main and East streets to help children safely through traffic.
That goes for the afternoon, as well. Ralph has been there every day for nine years.
“There was never a concern that he wouldn’t show up,” Chief Weeks said. “It’s a position I never had to worry about. It’s just unbelievable that someone would get out there in all weather conditions, and for someone his age, it’s really remarkable.”
Well, there was one day when Ralph, 83, slouched off and missed, but he made sure someone would be there to take his place.
“I only missed one day,” Ralph said. “I went to the zoo with the senior citizens.”
Ralph agrees that the police didn’t have to worry about him being on the job, but it wasn’t that way at first.
“It’s funny,” he said, “the first six months or so the police drove by every day to make sure I was there.”
Eventually, they just knew he would always show up.
“It’s been a really good thing to do,” Ralph said. “I love every one of those kids and I have a great time.”
He’s watched many of the kids grow over the years, and one of them once reminded him of that.
“Last year one of the girls said, ‘You started me in kindergarten.’ They don’t forget you,” Ralph said.
It’s always fun when a student spots him somewhere else in town when he’s not on the job.
“They know me and they let me know it,” he said.
He recognizes the faces, but he doesn’t know them all by name.
Some of the students are closer than others, he said, and a few coming running with their hands up half a block away, ready for a hug.
Once or twice a year Ralph buys a box of suckers and lets the kids take one—at least they’re supposed to take one. Many kids will mention their brother or sister at home and take an extra one or two. It doesn’t bother Ralph. He just enjoys making them happy.
Ralph often gets asked about standing out in the cold weather, but he doesn’t see it as a problem.
“I dress for it,” he says. “I don’t mind the winter at all.”
There was a day about seven below zero that was challenging, but it’s the wind-driven rain that’s the toughest weather to work in.
“You can’t hold an umbrella or it will take you right down the street,” Ralph said.
Before he accepted the job, people told him he would be sorry, that the kids would try to “run all over him,” but that hasn’t been the case. The children are always well behaved, he said, and haven’t given him any problems.
“I’ve enjoyed every day of it,” Ralph said. “I love the job, but I thought I would take a break.”
When school closes for the year next month, Ralph is retiring from the job. That has Chief Weeks worried about finding a new crossing guard who can match Ralph Piercy’s dedication.