'Steady and reassuring presence' retires at 88

Zoe Greszler • Jun 3, 2019 at 11:00 AM

The Norwalk Police Department recognized a man who’s kept students safe on their way to and from school for the past 15 years. 

Crossing Guard Donald Nickoli, 88, retired Thursday — his last day on the job after a decade and a half of “dedicated service to the city and its children,” Norwalk Police Chief Mike Conney said. 

Nickoli manned the intersection of East Main Street and Milan/Woodlawn avenues.

“Mr. Nickoli has been a steady and reassuring presence at the very busy intersection ... faithfully assisting our kids in safely crossing this busy thoroughfare, both before and after school,” Conney said. “Mr. Nickoli has served well for 15 years; his solid work ethic, good nature and willingness to serve will be sorely missed and very difficult to replace. We wish him well in his retirement and thank him for all he has done to keep our kids safe.”

Nickoli said he doesn’t want to leave his post, and even added that he’s still got a lot of life left in him. 

“I’m doing good for my age. The others, they can’t keep up with me,” he said. “I’m fast. I can keep going.”

But for Nickoli, it was just time. It was a good run for this crossing guard who got into the business after a suggestion from a coworker at a previous job.

“I worked at Norwalk Furniture then I went down to IGA to bag groceries and one of the ladies down there — her son was on the police force — and they said, ‘Donnie, they need a crossing guard,’” he said. “So there it is. And I’ve got a lot of grandkids myself too. I’ve got nine grandchildren of my own.”

Nickoli said over the years, he’s wished more drivers would pay attention to his stop sign when helping a child cross the street safely. 

“My biggest problem is people turning on red,” he said. “I can be out there and they can turn on red and I can’t stop them, you know. I get out there, helping a kid get across and they pull up and start to turn on red while I’m out there.”

For the most part, it’s been a good decade and a half and a time he said he’s going to miss. 

“I’m going to do nothing,” he said of his retirement plans. “This is what I did; I don’t have any plans.”

Conney said Nickoli will be missed, adding that his services over the years have meant “a lot.” The chief said it’s difficult for the department to find someone “with that level of dedication” to do the job regardless of the elements. Crossing guards help to keep the students and other pedestrians safe regardless of rain, wind, snow, whether it’s light outside yet or not.

“Then you have to split your day in half too since you have to be here in the morning and then again in the evening,” Conney said. “It takes a great level of dedication and, honestly, a great level of concern for the kids. If (Nickoli) wasn’t as concerned as he was, he wouldn’t be out here every day like he is.”

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