On a chilly late summer morning, car horns blare, drivers wave and pedestrians greet a beaming crossing guard who has become a fixture in an otherwise quiet suburban neighbourhood of Quebec City.
The woman causing the friendly commotion is Lucille Grenier. She has supervised the same intersection between Louis-XIV Boulevard and Seigneuriale Street for nearly 50 years.
“I’ll have spent more than half my life on this corner,” said Grenier, pausing to press the pedestrian button for a group of schoolchildren.
“Parents entrust us with the most precious thing of all — their child. So we’re here to keep them safe,” said Grenier. “They know they can count on us.”
Battling the cold of winter and the heat of June, Grenier has been there day in and day out — morning, midday and evening — working 15 hours per week and only missing her shift in extreme situations, like last winter when she was off for three months with a broken leg.
“I don’t like being off work,” said Grenier. “I came back this fall.”
She says a brush with cancer taught her “a lot about accepting and living one day at a time.”
Grenier started working at the intersection, following in her father’s footsteps.
“This wasn’t my first choice for a career. It was my father who opened the post here in the 70s, it was asked of him. And the first time, he refused,” explained Grenier.
After a few years on the job, she says her dad wanted to retire. Grenier, who was working in a laboratory at the time, was offered the role.
“I said ‘no.’ I said ‘I don’t see myself there.’ So he went on for another year and the following year he spoke to me about it again and I accepted. I remember it well, and I [took this job] to make him happy,” said Grenier.
Grenier says her original dream job was driving a city bus, but there was a roadblock.
“In the 60s they didn’t allow for women to join,” said Grenier.
“It’s definitely evolved. Now, we can do it all.”
In the decades that followed, she took all the necessary classes to become a bus driver, as a Plan B if ever she wanted to hang up her fluorescent vest. But she hasn’t.
“I was already hooked and I started to like it more and more. So I’d say to myself every year ‘I’ll see what comes from this’ and I’d always put off leaving,” said Grenier.
“Fifty years later, I’m still here and still happy to do it, and for me, it’s a gift of life.”
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Her favourite part? Seeing some of the hundreds of children she’s met over the years return — as young adults or parents.
“I have seen some who have moved away but return home to see their parents and stop in this area to say hello. They exclaim ‘you’re still here!’ and every single time, they can’t imagine the joy it brings me, it’s real joy,” said Grenier.
“That brings me such warmth.”
She says she has fond memories of conversations with kids who shared their dreams and goals on their daily walks.
“I love each of them equally,” said Grenier.
“Sometimes they arrive with good news for me, sometimes with bad news, and they’re able to confide in us …. We can even comfort them too, we teach them.”
Philippe Bédard had Grenier as a crossing guard when he went to school in the neighbourhood. Twenty years later with kids of his own, he says he remembers Grenier as the type of person who could turn his day around.
“She was always smiling. She was always fun. I’ve never seen her unhappy, even if it was raining, even in bad weather, or in a storm,” said Bédard, who has returned to see Grenier.
“It’s kind of crazy because she’s met so many people, like, so many kids, so many parents, but she still recognized your face, even though you grew up.”
He says last year his nephew had Grenier as a crossing guard. It was reassuring for his family to know Grenier was there, considering it’s one of the busiest crosswalks in Beauport, said Bédard.
“There are more and more cars, so you just want to be safe. But also you want your kids to have a great day and it starts from the moment you walk to school,” said Bédard.
“I can’t imagine for 50 years, like, being smiling,” Bédard said. “It’s just making [everyone’s] day better, even for my parents.”
Grenier says she keeps going thanks to her supportive family — her two children and her husband who always has breakfast ready when she gets home. Grenier didn’t want to reveal her age and says the word retirement isn’t in her vocabulary.
“If I’d retired, I wouldn’t have seen them,” said Grenier, pointing to school children.
“I would have missed out.”