Veteran volunteer: Retiree serves daily as crossing guard at school

Paul Wilson has retired a few times, from different careers, but still wants to help his community as much as he can.

That’s what led him to volunteer at Pioneer School.

“He is awesome,” said Tonya Cairo, Pioneer School principal. “We love him. Everybody loves him.”

He works as a crossing guard near the Edward C. Allworth Veterans’ Home, where he lives.

Wilson is the second resident of the Veterans’ Home to volunteer in this capacity. Last year, Duane Baumgartner held the post. Baumgartner has since passed away.

A student’s mother put a photo of Wilson at the crosswalk on Facebook, he said.

“Her kids were telling her about me,” Wilson said. “I love kids. I do everything I can (to help at Pioneer).”

In addition to helping at the crosswalk, he has helped deliver mail to school staff.

Wilson went through the usual volunteer process at the school, filling out paperwork and having a background check.

“They said ‘We’re going to keep you busy,’” Wilson said. “I enjoy it.”

On an early November afternoon, most motorists waved to Wilson as he stood ready at the crosswalk near Pioneer School and the Veterans’ Home. He waved back, but said he wished people would slow down in the area.

He got his wish that day, as a Lebanon Police officer pulled someone over after they sped past.

“We’ve had some close calls,” said Wilson.

Wilson has been in a scooter since he broke his hip in April.

That’s when he put in his application to live at the Veterans’ Home.

His brother Bill also lives there.

“I couldn’t find him Sweet Home; a niece in Corvallis found him,” Wilson said. “(Bill) said ‘You ought to put in your application here, it’s great.’ And I did, two months later.”

The 88-year-old Korean War veteran was in the U.S. Navy for nine years.

When he got out, he spent the next 30 years working with his father driving log trucks in Lebanon and Sweet Home.

When he turned 66 years old, he decided to retire.

“I got a fifth wheel and went from here to Wheeler, Oregon.

He and his wife June traveled together.

One time, upon returning to the RV park where he lived, he was asked to be the security and soon after that the manager.

“I did that for 10 years,” Wilson said.

He also volunteered at the Grace Center in Corvallis for three years, five days a week.

“At 80 years old, I decided to stop,” Wilson said.

When June got cancer, they spent most of their time in the hospital.

She died in 2014.

The couple has a son in Seattle and a daughter in Corvallis.

Kat Sheldon, who lives across the street from Pioneer School, appreciates the work Wilson has been doing to keep students safe as they cross the street.

She has spoken with him and noticed that the Oregon rain makes it difficult for him to stay dry while on the job. Sheldon plans to honor Wilson, and present him with a waterproof blanket, at 11:30 a.m. on Dec. 9 at the Lebanon Senior Center.

The ceremony is during the Holiday Express with Santa Bazaar, which Sheldon organized.

The blanket was made by one of the vendors, Taylor Moody whose business is called Rolling in the Rain.

Wilson will be 89 years old in January and he is hopeful he will be able to ditch the scooter.

“I’m determined I’m going to get walking one of these days,” Wilson said.