A Valentine’s Day goodbye to ‘Paul the crossing guard’

Kew Beach parents and students throw a Feb. 14 farewell party

Crossing guard Paul Belyea.
Crossing guard Paul Belyea says goodbye outside of Kew Beach Junior Public School. Allison Palmer/Toronto Observer

Outside of Kew Beach Junior Public School, a refreshment table with cookies, coffee and balloons is set up on the school’s north side. It’s a goodbye party for crossing guard Paul Belyea.

For the last four years, “Paul the crossing guard” has been at the corner of Queen Street East and Elmer Avenue helping children and locals safely cross the street. Recently, Belyea was offered an opportunity he couldn’t turn down.“I’m going to be training new crossing guards and working with other companies.”

“I grew up right across the street from this school. I went to this school a long time ago,” said Belyea, 48, who relocated with his wife to Montreal for seven years before moving back to Toronto in 2015.

He needed a job when he received an email from an employment counsellor telling him about a job fair. “No heavy lifting, no previous job experience required, I can do this,” he said.

Four years later, coffee shop owner and local Jimson Bienenstock made a Facebook post letting parents know a farewell party would be held for Belyea on his last day, Feb. 14. “I own a coffee shop downtown, so I came here and set the coffee up and a couple of other parents chipped in for the cookies,” he said.

Bienenstock has two children who attended the school. He said even though his children no longer go to the school, they walk along Queen Street just to say hi and bye to Belyea.

“It’s a part of growing up and learning that some relationships do come to an end,” Bienenstock said.

Just after 3 p.m., students from Kew Beach Junior Public School gathered outside with their teachers, making a line across the school’s field. A few minutes later, teachers rang the bell and all the students rushed towards the wooden fence to say their goodbyes to Belyea. They screamed in excitement, gave high-fives and briefly chanted “For he’s a jolly good fella.”

Paul Belyea, 48,  said goodbye to Kew Beach Junior Public School students after being a crossing guard in this spot for four years. (Allison Palmer/TORONTO OBSERVER)

The children gave Belyea pictures they had coloured and gifts neatly placed in bags. Belyea gave hugs, high-fives and even did secret handshakes with some of the children.

Danielle, a parent with two children who attend the school, Maybel, a kindergartener, and Trudie, a fourth grader, said “Paul is the reason I let Trudie walk on her own in third grade.” (She didn’t want to give her last name to protect the identity of her children.)

Danielle said she knew Belyea would be on the way and this made her feel safe. “It’s so nice to see him in the morning, he’s always smiling it doesn’t matter if it’s snowing, raining whatever it is.” She said she feels emotional about him leaving because they’ve seen him for the last four years.

Trudie said, “I’m really sad because  it was really nice when he always gave us a smile whenever we’re walking to school.”

Trudie said she doesn’t know if another crossing guard will be like Belyea and have the same connection he did with everyone.

Belyea plans to stay in contact with the school and has already been invited to the play that will take place toward the end of the school year.

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Posted: Feb 16 2019 12:24 pm
Filed under: News Profiles