By Ryan S. Clark
LANSING -— A little girl flies through the blue door
with her eyes on only one person.
Her arms wrap around his legs and her sweet,
high-pitched voice squeals, "Hi, Curlee!"
And with a smile and a laugh, Curlee Foster responds
with a "hello" before the little girl walks away.
Greeting the General Motors retiree is a part of everyday life
at Averill Elementary. Today, however, the 67-year-old Foster
is likely to hear more goodbyes because it's his last day
as the school's longtime crossing guard.
"I retired from GM in 2001," Foster said. "Two days after retiring from GM, the principal here at the time asked me if I wanted to be the crossing guard."
Yet, he's more than just a crossing guard.
You can't walk more than 10 steps through the school's front doors without passing the gym. To the right of its doors there is a professional portrait of Foster. And, the gym bears his name.
Foster has coached basketball and baseball, finding ways to make the sports affordable for students.
He has a namesake catering company and the money Foster's Catering makes goes to the school's athletic programs.
"When I was growing up, I had people who helped me," Foster said. "Sports were important to me and I wanted to give something back."
Linda Garza has been a parent and staff member at the school, and has known Foster in some capacity for more than 20years.
She said parents love Foster because of how much he cares about the children.
"When he coaches baseball, he makes sure every kid plays," she said. "The team will be competitive but he makes sure every single kid plays because it is that important to him."
Principal Rosa Thill, who has been at the school for 10 years, said Foster began struggling with his health this school year.
In the winter, when he battled bronchitis, he was out in the streets making sure students got into the building and that parents were able to enter and exit the school with ease in the morning and in the afternoon.
"When he said this was his last year, I couldn't ask him to come back," Thill said. "Doing that would have been selfish."
Foster's declining health became more noticeable during his morning routine.
Once he's done setting up the traffic cones guiding cars in and out of the school, Thill said, he has to sit and rest for a few minutes.
But Foster always has time to visit.
He'll talk about his beloved Detroit Tigers and affectionately refer to third baseman Miguel Cabrera as "Cheeseburger" because of his large frame.
People will miss Foster's smile, the conversations and his barbecue, which Garza claims is the best she's ever had.
"I just enjoy talking with him every morning and it's just a connection," said Garza, who had to pause and compose herself. “He’s just a good all-around guy. It’s going to kill me to not see him next year.”
News | June 7, 2013 | Page 3A
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