THOMASTON — Every school day in the morning and afternoon, Sigrid Keyes can be found stopping traffic so schoolchildren and adults alike can safely cross Main Street in Thomaston. Keyes has done this work with a smile for the past 46 years.

“I love it!” Keyes said.

If you ask her about retirement, Keyes will respond with a laugh, “I’m not gonna!” She loves working, and said it makes her feel fulfilled.

While Keyes described herself as a private person without many close friends, she has made countless connections in the community through her time as a crossing guard. She has also become a Thomaston institution.

Keyes is full of stories about those connections with both children and adults over the years. “I have met incredible people during my work,” she said, “both the kids and staff at the schools.”

Keyes has been doing this work long enough to meet the siblings, children and sometimes grandchildren of people she met when she first started. Everywhere she goes in town, she said, she is greeted by adults who remember her from their childhood.

That sense of community is important to her and makes her feel alive, Keyes said. She loves Thomaston and from Main Street said she can see her whole life –  from the apartment where she lived with her family starting at age 9 to the location of her first job at age 16 and the churches she attended as an adult.

The children are her favorite part of being a crossing guard, of course. “I love seeing the kids every morning,” she said. She enjoys making a personal bond with the kids and said she tries to find something to love in each child.

Keyes is also on-call for custodial work at Regional School Unit 13, and said she accepts every job she is offered there. “I never let the school district down,” she said, because they have always taken care of her.

During the 2021-2022 school year, RSU 13 gave out special coins for years worked in the district. Keyes received seven gold coins which she said were just beautiful. “That’s better than money,” she said.

Keyes started work as a crossing guard after her husband Harlan passed away. Keyes said she thought about what to do next and realized she wanted to go back to work.

She responded to an advertisement in the newspaper for a crossing guard job in the Thomaston school district, then Maine School Administrative District 50. The ad said the job came with a weekly pay of $375. When Keyes called to apply for the position, she told the district, “I don’t need that kind of money!” She just wanted to work.

In addition to her job at the crosswalk, Keyes has performed a variety of custodial work for the district through the years. For many years she was a day janitor at Georges Valley High School, now Oceanside Middle School.

Keyes was involved in everything from the high school plays to sports events and everything in between during that time. “Georges Valley was my building,” she said.

In fact, Keyes admitted she still thinks of the building as Georges Valley High School. Last time the school district asked her to clean the high school, she said, she went to the wrong building.

Keyes said she feels such a connection to the former Georges Valley High School, she wrote instructions into her will to hold her funeral there.

Thomaston crossing guard Sigrid Keyes. Photo by Christine Simmonds

Sigrid Keyes dresses up at Glinda the Good Witch for Halloween 2013. Village Soup file photo

Sigrid Keyes in 1986 directing traffic for the Thomaston Police Department. Photo courtesy of Sigrid Keyes