Spring Grove woman devotes retirement to child safety
Monday, July 23, 2012 8:00 AM
Two times a day for nine months a year for 20 years, in rain, snow, wind and hot sun, Evonne Morken has tirelessly assisted students, parents, teachers and staff across the road by Spring Grove Public School.
Hugs from students were one of Evonne Morken's very favorite perks as a crossing guard. Evonne holds flowers she received as a thank you for being a crossing guard for so many years and accepts a hug from a student on the last day of school.
Morken has been the lead crossing guard for Spring Grove Public School for 20 years. It all began when her son, Lonnie, suggested that she look into the job as crossing guard because he knew how much she enjoyed working with kids. Morken approached then-superintendent Jim Busta about the job, but at the time, high school students were crossing guards.
A couple years passed and Morken received a phone call from then-principal Ron Stone asking her if she was interested in the job.
"I said, I sure am! I've been wanting that job," Morken remarked. "I've always enjoyed working with kids, so that's why I was interested in this job."
Morken began the crossing guard job after the typical retirement age. At the time she and her husband, Glenn, were doing a morning paper route. They'd leave the house about 5 a.m. and return between 6:30 and 7 a.m. in time for her to get ready to head to the school. She also was babysitting and Glenn would stay with the little one until she returned from school.
"I liked to stay busy," Morken said with a smile and a little laugh. Other places she worked prior to being a crossing guard included the nursing homes in Mabel and Spring Grove and cleaning at the post office.
Morken enjoyed making birthdays for students at Spring Grove Public Elementary School a little extra special by giving them a sucker and hand-signed birthday card. For those with summer birthdays, Morken celebrated their half-birthday, so that no one missed out. She gets parental permission before giving the children the suckers.
"I like the joy of seeing the children get the birthday card and sucker and all of the happy faces on the rest of the kids in the classroom when the birthday child gets their treat," commented Morken. "The whole class seems to brighten up when I stop by their classroom with the treat and the teachers always thank me." She's given out about 180 suckers and cards a year for 18 years (she started the tradition two years after becoming a crossing guard)....that's a lot of giving!
Her son, Lonnie, coaches the Mabel-Canton High School volleyball team and she has also made many suckers for them as well; a hobby that has kept her very busy during her working years!
Morken also had a special knack for remembering students' names - she would call each one by name as they crossed the street. She even knew their names as they crossed the street to head to preschool, before they ever even came to the elementary.
"I don't know how I remember, I just do!" she said with a grin.
Most days, Morken is dressed in weather appropriate clothing including the bright orange vest so that drivers see her well. However, there are certain times of the year that her outfit changes - each Halloween she dons her green witch costume. For a week before Christmas, it is Santa Claus that is helping the students cross the street and once spring rolls around, the Easter bunny also makes an appearance for a day. She hasn't permanently packed away the costumes quite yet; she plans to visit the school at Christmas and Easter.
Morken was also a bit of a "mother" to her crossing guard helpers.
"Some days the kids weren't dressed warm enough for the weather and I'd get after them to wear hats and gloves," she shared. "After all, they are on the corners for about 20 minutes in the morning and 14 minutes in the afternoon and even though that doesn't sound like a lot of time, it can get very cold and windy standing there."
Morken has many stories to tell about her years as a crossing guard. She shared a recent story that made her smile. A gentleman came up to her in the grocery store and as they talked he said, "You've been on the corner so long that if you had a microwave and cot you could take up residence there!"
"He couldn't believe that I was retiring. He thought that I'd be there until an ambulance had to pick me up!" Morken said with a chuckle. "I've waved at so many passing vehicles over the years that I'll see people in places like Decorah who I don't know at all and they'll come up to me and say 'you're that crossing guard in Spring Grove and you wave at me each day as I go to work!' I don't know who they are, but they know me! That's pretty neat!"
Her favorite parts of being a crossing guard have been working with the sixth grade flag boys and girls and all the hugs she receives from kids crossing the street. "It (getting hugs) makes you feel so good! I sure will miss the kids," she added.
In retirement, Morken plans to just relax and enjoy herself. She and Glenn will stay busy attending ball games in the summer and throughout the school year. They keep score for a Canton summer league and try to attend all the home volleyball games in Mabel and Spring Grove as well as home basketball games.
This month they are taking a train ride to Duluth and enjoying a couple days there. She said the hotel they are staying at has not been affected by the flooding. She is very excited about the trip and spending time with her daughter and her family.
"This is something we've never done before," she said. "We've gone lots of different places, but I've always wanted a train ride. I'm really looking forward to this trip."
She and Glenn have been married for 42 years. They have two children, Lonnie and Joy. Lonnie is married to Stephanie and lives in Mabel with their three daughters. Joy is married to Steve Afdahl and lives in Lakeville with their two daughters.