By John Burton
FAIR HAVEN — “We don’t get the respect we should as crossing guards, that’s for sure,” said John Furiato, who spends part of every school day at the Hance and River roads intersection, making sure the young students make their way safely to Knollwood School, on Hance.
After making that statement on Tuesday, Furiato thinks for a moment and then adds, “Well, except for the kids and their parents.”
But Furiato received some special recognition at a regular meeting of the borough governing body last Monday, when the mayor and council honored Furiato for quick thinking on the job – quick thinking that very likely spared a child from being struck by a vehicle.
“He’s a good guy,” Police Chief Darryl Breckenridge said about Furiato. “He did the right thing.”
Mayor Benjamin Lucarelli presented Furiato with a proclamation, acknowledging that Furiato “made a split second decision to quickly step in front of the juvenile,” blocking the child from walking across River Road as a driver was attempting to make an illegal right turn to travel east on River, very possibly putting the child in harm’s way.
As he does every school day, Furiato said, on Jan 24, he was helping the usual number of 60-80 kids make their way across the street to Knollwood school. The kids had proceeded, but one little guy, about 10, had arrived late, Furiato remembered, apologizing to the guard because he couldn’t find his bicycle helmet.
Furiato was walking the boy across the street, when Furiato noticed a car, traveling north on Hance Road that was inching out into the intersection against the traffic light, looking to make a right onto River Road. As the driver continued to make the illegal turn, Furiato pulled the boy back and ste3pped in front of him, standing between the boy and the car. The car completed the turn and drove away.
Another driver sitting at the light called police to report the incident, and the first driver was stopped by police and charged appropriately.
“It just happened too damn quick,” Furiato said of the whole incident.
The important thing, he stressed was that the child wasn’t hurt.
Furiato, 75, is a lifelong Colts Neck resident, who has owned and operated small businesses for much of his life. He has been working as a crossing guard in Fair Haven since 2007. “It’s a big responsibility,” he said.
“When these kids leave their yards, they’re my kids,” he said. “They’re my responsibility.”
River Road is heavily traveled, putting pedestrians at risk of being hit by distracted and downright rude drivers, he said. “There are close calls every day,” he said, acknowledging some drivers “flip me the bird,” and yell obnoxious things.
“I could get hurt if I’m not smart enough to get out of their way,” he said.
But seeing the kids every day makes it worthwhile, he continued.
And parents often express their gratitude, with small gifts at Christmas and the end of the school year.
“They appreciate what I do,” he said.