For 20 years Donald 'Ducky' Diefenbach has worked as a crossing guard. He is the only crossing guard stationed in the Sturgeon Bay School District. / Photos by Samantha Hernandez/Door County Advocate
Sturgeon Bay students returning to school on Tuesday were greeted by a familiar face on the corner of South 15th Avenue and Michigan Street — a face that has manned that corner longer than they’ve been alive.
Since he retired 20 years ago, Donald “Ducky” Diefenbach, 83, has been the crossing guard for Sturgeon Bay middle and elementary school. His shifts run 7-7:30 a.m. and 2:20-2:50 p.m. five days a week.
Although few students walked to the first day of classes, many passersby waved at Diefenbach as he manned his post.
“Yeah, I enjoy it,” he said of his work.
When Diefenbach started there were five other crossing guards. Budget considerations have thinned the ranks.
“I’m the only one left,” he said. He is employed through the Sturgeon Bay Police Department.
He has worked a variety of jobs over the years: bookkeeper, cab driver, laundry truck driver and service adviser. Up until his heart attack seven years ago, he worked as both a cab driver and crossing guard. Diefenbach has also been a baseball umpire for the last 52 years.
Winter time is the hardest because of the cold.
“You gotta earn your keep, let’s put it that way,” he said. He’ll often wait in his car until he sees kids nearing the street corner.
Elementary principal Ann Smejkal said Diefenbach takes an interest in the students he sees every day.
“The one thing that is so nice about having Don is we always know that there is an adult helping them cross the busy Michigan Street intersection,” Smejkal said.
Several times a year he is invited to the school for coffee or hot chocolate and cookies.
“He’s just a wonderful man,” she said. “It’s clear he really cares about them and their safety and he really creates a connection with them.”
Contact Samantha Hernandez at firstname.lastname@example.org or (920) 743-3321, Ext. 112.