For most of the calendar year, Dean and Hazel Mason spend part of weekday mornings and afternoons helping children get to and from school safely.
Donning reflective vests, the crossing guards watch for speeders and distracted drivers as they get students across the street. They also form relationships with the families they encounter.
It’s a job in which they take pleasure.
“I enjoy knowing exactly what I’m going to do every day and helping kids, keeping them safe,” Mason said.
Mrs. Mason, 78, said the job was easy and added income after she was sick with lymphoma.
She also said she loves children.
“We love children. We enjoy it in our later years. We have our home. We have our (own) children, but this is something extra. It fills our time plus it’s extra money,” she said.
The Masons are among the crossing guards who will return to their duties Aug. 25, the first day of school for Tyler ISD. Mason is a crossing guard at Jack Elementary School, while his wife is a crossing guard at Owens Elementary School.
They work for 90 minutes in the morning and 90 minutes in the afternoon.
Mason, 71, said he’s always relieved to go back to work as a crossing guard. He said his other job as an electrician is hard work and keeps him busy, especially during the summertime when it’s his full-time work, and working as a crossing guard cuts back on his hours as an electrician.
His wife also said she is ready to return to the job.
Mason became a crossing guard in 2002 after retiring from a full-time position with the city.
He said he mostly did it for the extra income, as he was too young to draw Social Security. Mrs. Mason learned of an open crossing guard position through her husband and agreed to take the job, which she’s done on and off since the early 2000s.
While on crossing guard duty, Mason said he must watch all the time, and there have been some incidents in which a driver didn’t slow down and disregarded the stop sign he was holding. Drivers on their cell phones also pose trouble.
“It’s just a hectic place. There’s a lot of traffic where I’m at, from at least three directions,” Mason said.
Mrs. Mason also talked about drivers, saying there are a lot of speeders out there, and the parents depend on her to get their kids across the street.
“We have some beautiful children that cross the street who deserve to be safe going to school as well as playing in their yard (at home),” she said.
Mrs. Mason said her favorite part of the job is when parents walk down to the corner, and while she’s helping their children, they talk to her and thank her for what she does.
She also said children speak to her, tell her “Good Morning” and have a smile on their face.
Mason said he and his wife live in close proximity to both schools, so he, too, knows kids’ families and receives gratitude for his help.
“They all know us,” Mrs. Mason said. “We love the kids. They hug you. They always say ‘Thank you.’”
Still, she said, the weather can sometimes be a challenge.
Aside from their crossing guard duties, the couple in 2006 started the Mission House in Bullard — a ministry that entails a food pantry, clothes closet and clinic for uninsured people.
At the age of 16, Mrs. Mason married and had four children with her first husband. She later divorced, received her GED and went on to raise the four children by herself. She worked for several places in Tyler until she had her own shop, Hazel’s Beauty Salon, which she owned for nearly 40 years.
She didn’t meet Mason until she started attending Glenwood United Methodist Church, where she was over missions for seven years. The couple, married in 1997, eventually began attending the First United Methodist Church in Bullard, where Mrs. Mason was asked to take on missions.
But their life was disrupted in 2003 when Mrs. Mason received her lymphoma diagnosis.
She faced her diagnosis, going through chemotherapy and surgeries, and in 2004, when she went into remission, the Masons started working with missions in the church.
In addition to the Mission House, Mrs. Mason and her husband pick up good furniture from people who no longer need it and donate it to people who do. They also purchase school supplies for children.