Children call her Mimi. Retiring teachers have their picture taken with her. For more than 30 years, Micheline Benoit has been a crossing guard near Sainte-Cécile elementary school in Villeray.
“There are some kids whose parents I’ve taken through,” she points out. In the fall, if I’m here, I’ll start my 33rd year. »
On her yellow bib, Micheline proudly wears a pin given to her for her 30 years of service, to which must be added 2 as a supernumerary. There was even a ceremony at Neighborhood Station 31 on Esplanade Avenue. “When I opened the door, people cheered. I didn’t expect that, she says. I feel respected by the SPVM and that is important. »
Before becoming a crossing guard, Micheline kept little ones at home, not to mention her own, who are now 39 and 43 years old. “I had a click when I picked them up at school and saw the crossing guard,” she recalls. I like to be outside, I like to move, I like children and I want a job without a boss behind me… But why didn’t I think of that before? »
She then had the choice between three “traverses”, and she was charmed by the one at the corner of avenue De Gaspé and rue De Castelnau in front of the Sainte-Cécile school. “It’s so well located. There is the Jean-Talon market, cafes, shops. »
“His children are less tanned than he was”, Micheline jokes as Ismaël Bamba has just arrived with his children Bilal and Maissa (who did not yet have their little brother born the night after the photo was taken! ).
Micheline was Ismaël’s brigadier from 1992 to 1998 and she is an integral part of his neighborhood life. “Micheline has always been around,” he said before giving her a hug.
In the morning, Micheline estimates she is escorting some 250 children and ensuring their safety. Those of the school, but also of the CPE Chez-nous chez vous, located just opposite.
Rain or shine, she is faithful to the position with a split schedule, which is specific to the profession. “After so many years, I would have changed fields if it didn’t suit me,” said the woman with the slender body and such a calm temperament.
The weather she hates the most? A cool, wet November rain. “There, I say to myself: it is true that I should retire. But the next day, it’s sunny and it’s forgotten. »
Because people who ask her when she is going to retire, there are a lot of them. Starting with her husband, Jean Charles Pyton, nevertheless by her side every morning, leaning against the school fence.
“My bodyguard,” she said.
“I’ve come to encourage her, but I’ve been bugging her for 12 years to retire with me,” he says, tongue-in-cheek, under Micheline’s amused gaze.
He and his wife have been married for 40 years and are grandparents. They met in Saint-Hyacinthe, in a bar called Au p’tit canot.
Even though she is 71, it is a big decision for Micheline to retire. “I have to feel ready. I like what I do. It makes me see people and it gets me moving. »
“I was happy and proud to be back,” she says. And believe us: parents and children were very happy and relieved to find her with her yellow bib and stop sign.
It must be said that for Micheline, being a crossing guard is almost a way of life. Every morning, she gets up before the sun. ” Do you know why ? If you don’t want me to be in a bad mood, I have to have 45 minutes on my rocking chair with my coffee and my lunch. »
Micheline starts the first of her three shifts at 7:35 a.m. and then returns home in the morning. After the dinner work period – long but quieter – the crossing guard used to go for a coffee at the Bistro l’Enchanteur, but since the pandemic, she has another arrangement. “The school, with whom I have a good relationship, lends me a small room so that I can read. It allows me to rest and get back to my crossing. »
Micheline is also very fond of contact with the little ones. “It’s alive and so real, a child… And it’s so important to love what you do,” she insists.