Popular Ogden crossing guard finishes in top 5 of 'America's Favorite'

Friday , May 25, 2018 - 5:15 AM2 comments

OGDEN — John Lewis may not be America’s favorite crossing guard, but he’s pretty darned popular in this neck of the woods.

Late last year, Lewis, a crossing guard at Wasatch Elementary School, was nominated for the title of “America’s Favorite Crossing Guard.” The nationwide award is sponsored by the Washington, D.C.-based nonprofit Safe Kids Worldwide and FedEx. Although Lewis didn’t win — this year’s title went to Sheriff Bob Rost of Grand Forks, North Dakota — he was one of five finalists in the contest. The winner was announced earlier this month.

RELATED: Two Ogden men nominated for America's Favorite Crossing Guard

“Big John,” as he’s called, was one of 55 crossing guards in 17 states to be nominated for the 2018 honor. The public was invited to vote for their favorite crossing guard, and Lewis received the third-most votes in the competition. The top five vote-getters were then assessed by a panel of judges, which declared the ultimate winner.

Also nominated this year was Rusty Underwood, a crossing guard at Gramercy Elementary School, in Ogden. Underwood just missed out on a top-five finish.

Lewis’ wife, Carolyn Lewis, said her husband was grateful to know that the people in the community appreciate him and his service. Wasatch Elementary recently held an assembly to honor Lewis, and he was presented with a trophy and gift cards.

“That’s pretty good for a little old boy from Utah,” Carolyn Lewis said. “It’s like the Miss America contest — maybe you don’t win it, but at least you’re a runner-up.”

This was the second year of America’s Favorite Crossing Guard contest. Last year’s inaugural contest attracted about 30 nominations.

The winner’s school received a $500 grant, while the winning crossing guard earned prizes designed to make his or her job a little easier.

Although Lewis didn’t win the $500 prize for Wasatch Elementary, Carolyn Lewis said the school didn’t go home empty-handed. She said someone donated a $500 check to Wasatch Elementary, in Lewis’ name.

Carolyn Lewis said her husband didn’t even care that he didn’t win the national contest. That’s not why he shows up every weekday at the corner of Polk Avenue and Boughton Street. She says he’s only there to keep the children safe.

“It doesn’t matter whether he got a reward or a peanut,” she said. “That’s just John. It turned out really good, and he’s happy. It really means a lot to him that the people in that neighborhood love him so much.”

Kristin Rosenthal, program manager with Safe Kids Worldwide, said the thing that stood out most about Lewis’ nomination was his safety record. In the nearly decade that Lewis has been a crossing guard at the school, there have been no traffic injuries. That’s what’s most important, according to Rosenthal.

“Everyone loves a high five or a hug, but it comes down to what they’re there to do — to keep our kids safe,” she said. “And for these folks who go above and beyond, we wanted to bring attention to as many of them as possible.”

The upcoming third annual America’s Favorite Crossing Guard will begin around the second week in October, according to Rosenthal. The rules will be similar to last year’s, but Rosenthal says they’ll probably offer a shorter voting period — possibly two weeks.

In the meantime, Carolyn Lewis said her husband has no intention of retiring from this calling that he loves.

“He’s been up there nine years, and he’ll go back next year,” she said. “As long as the Lord’s willing, he’ll keep going.”

Contact Mark Saal at 801-625-4272, or msaal@standard.net. Follow him on Twitter at @Saalman. Friend him on Facebook at facebook.com/MarkSaal.

Sign up for e-mail news updates.