At crosswalk, familiar figure missed
By JULIANNE WU
© St. Petersburg Times, published April 26, 2001
SEMINOLE -- Harold Ziegler's title was school crossing guard, but to the hundreds of kids who frequented his crosswalk near Bardmoor Elementary School on school days, he was more like a grandfather.
Ziegler died March 19 after a short illness. The 71-year-old had served nearly 10 years as a crossing guard on Portulaca Avenue N in Seminole.
"He was such a nice man," said Kim Ternes, Bardmoor PTA president, who knew Ziegler for four years and saw him as she walked her daughter, Kryssa, 9, to and from school. "He was really like a grandfather to the kids. Even high school kids who knew him from years ago would come up to him and exchange hugs.
"And he knew every child by name."
Because his death had such an effect on the youngsters, Ternes asked Bardmoor principal Linda Nore whether the PTA could plant a tree in Ziegler's honor. That will take place at 1 p.m. Friday.
"We are going to plant the tree (a camphor tree donated by Country Club Nursery) as close to his crosswalk as possible," said Mrs. Nore. "He was such a kind man and took such good care of our children. We miss him."
At the tree-planting ceremony Friday -- which happens to be National Arbor Day -- the Pinellas County Sheriff's Office will present a plaque to honor Ziegler's memory.
When she learned of Ziegler's death, Ternes made up a booklet containing the signatures of all 101 children who crossed the street at Ziegler's "spot" every day. She presented it to his wife of 42 years, Emily Ziegler, at his funeral.
"The years we've spent getting to know Harold have been great ones," the booklet reads. "Harold was always there no matter what the weather. He loved his job and he loved the kids. And we are all going to miss him a lot."
Mrs. Ziegler, of Largo, wept as she spoke of the children's handwritten sentiments recently. "When I received the booklet and then later, the invitation to the tree-planting ceremony, I was overwhelmed," she said. "I didn't know everyone thought so highly of him."
The Zieglers moved to Florida in 1990 from Springfield, Pa. Ziegler, who retired from the supply department of the U.S. Navy Yard in Philadelphia in 1986 after 33 years of service, immediately became a crossing guard in Pennsylvania.
"Harold used to tell me how the kids at Bardmoor would leave stuff in his car, sometimes, like Rollerblades . . . things they couldn't take into school. Then, they'd pick them up after school," said Mrs. Ziegler.
"Harold just enjoyed kids, watching them grow up," continued Mrs. Ziegler, 67, who works part time at Ellen's Hallmark store in Largo.
Mrs. Ziegler and her daughter, Susan Ziegler, of Largo, and son, Robert, of Seminole, plan to be at the dedication.
Safety patrol member Jeremy Harper, 11, of Seminole, said he is happy about the dedication.
"Mr. Ziegler was a great guy," Jeremy said. "If the kids didn't listen to him, he wouldn't yell at them. He would just tell them in a nice way."
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