Dependability and dedication: Longtime school crossing guard to be missed

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Tuesday, January 4, 2011
— When Janesville police officer David Burke needed a school crossing guard near Lincoln Elementary School in 1976, he approached Jeanette L. "Ned" Cookson.

He noticed she was home during the day and after learning she was a stay-at-home housewife and mom asked if she'd consider becoming a crossing guard, her daughter Anita Lloyd said.

Cookson agreed to give it a try and continued in that position for 34 years at the intersection of Kellogg and Grant avenues, a block from her home.

"She absolutely loved the job, to go every morning, see the kids, help them across the street and say good morning," Lloyd said.

Cookson would buy extra candy canes every Christmas and pass them out to the students on the last day of school before their holiday break.

Illness prevented her from participating in that annual holiday tradition this year.

The day after Thanksgiving, she was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. She died Dec. 23. She was 65.

"In a snap of a finger, she went from the strong person she was, to weak and frail. One day she was perfectly fine, and the next day she was struggling. It all happened so fast. I still can't believe my mom's gone," she said.

Initially, the plan was for Cookson to take two weeks off from her crossing guard job. But when the two weeks were up, she still wasn't feeling strong enough to return.

So Cookson agreed to wait another two weeks, which would have taken her through Christmas break.

"Her goal was to finish out this school year," Lloyd said.

Cookson is one of 19 crossing guards and several alternates who will be recognized Jan. 10-14 when the local police department participates in Adult Crossing Guard Recognition week, Sgt. Brian Donohoue said.

Lloyd said her mom didn't expect such credit.

"To my mom, it was self-rewarding. My mom liked to stay in the shadows. She wanted to do all the good deeds, but she didn't want to be recognized for it," she said.

Her dependability and dedication was invaluable, Donohoue said.

"I never got complaints, calls of her being late or not showing up," Donohoue said.

"She's the type of person if we have a suspicious vehicle, we just made a phone call to her to have another set of eyes out there. She was firm yet fair when she dealt with the public, always smiling and friendly. She's going to be hard to replace," he said.

Donohoue said officers are assigned to crossing guard locations if an alternate is not available for sick or vacationing crossing guards. But that never was a problem with Cookson.

"She never missed," Lloyd said, "She took such pride in the job."

Cookson's consistency also was important to Lincoln students and their parents, said Shawn Galvin, principal.

"Consistency in students' lives is important to their success," he said.

It also alleviated worries and concerns, Galvin said.

"Somebody with that much experience, you know they are highly qualified to fill that role," he said.

Last updated: 4:10 pm Thursday, December 13, 2012

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