“He always makes me feel happy... He always asks if I'm OK."

Meghan Overdeep
January 27, 2018
Alan Schein Photography/Getty Images

Earl Tate, 66, has been voluntarily watching over the intersection of 26th and Jessup streets in northeast Wilmington, Delaware, every day for 19 years.

During the school year, Tate starts his day at 4:30 a.m. He puts on his yellow safety vest, and between the hours of 6am and 8:15 am, he stands guard, making sure the neighborhood kids start their school days with a smile and a high five. He does it all for free, and he loves it.

"Yes, indeed," he told The News Journal last year. "I be out here having myself a ball of fun with the kids."

Tate does his best to make the most out of the short time he spends with each kid. He teaches them sign language, creates rhymes with their names, and performs his impressions of Elmo, Fat Albert and Mickey Mouse. In the spring, he told the Journal he brings jump ropes and dumbbells to keep them busy while they wait for the bus.

"He's always making jokes," Abigale Downer, a 12-year-old student at Springer Middle School, told the paper. "He even makes his own music with his mouth. He always makes me feel happy... He always asks if I'm OK."

Downer said Tate also quizzes her on her multiplication tables. He even asks parents about their kids grades. In between rounds of kids, Tate smiles and sings to himself, “di di di di di deet do.” Drivers honk their hellos.

Theresa Barrett, 30, is a teacher at a nearby childcare center. She told the Journal she remembers Tate helping her cross the street when she was a child.

"It had an impact on you, seeing him, him giving you high fives," she recalled. "Some kids don't get that happy morning, and that makes their morning."

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Tate’s commitment to traffic safety stems from a horrific childhood accident. When he was just five, he was run over and dragged about 30 feet by a car. He was in a coma for a month and a half. To this day, Tate walks with a cane.

Though he’s certainly earned his retirement, Tate doesn’t plan to slow down anytime soon. "As long as there are kids out here, I'll never grow old," he told the Journal.