Ruth Charthern, known by colleagues as the longest-serving school crossing guard in Richmond County with 40 years of service, died at her home Wednesday. She was 86.
Born in Augusta, Charthern worked as a housekeeper at University Hospital and at a local elementary school before applying to be crossing guard for children, according to her son, Maurice Charthern.
“Even at that age, she had to be doing something and wouldn’t stay still,” Maurice Charthern said. “My mother used to like to cut the grass. She didn’t even want me to do it for her. She’d paint the house, things like that. In fact, she just got through painting a few weeks ago.”
Well into her 80s, Charthern rode the city bus to and from her crossing locations across the city, most recently off Sand Bar Ferry Road at W.S. Hornsby K-8 School, according to Richmond County’s lead school crossing guard, Susan Smith.
While the guards are required to wear black shoes, black slacks and a white shirt, Smith remembers Charthern politely insisting on wearing her white sandals and black dress, which was allowed.
“She would always go to work, never called out sick or missed a day,” Smith said. “I don’t care what the weather was, she was always there. The kids loved her to death. … She’d stand there and talk to the kids before school. She just really cared.”
Her niece, Shirley Johnson, said she was an active member of Thankful Baptist Church for close to 50 years, where she was known to always wear elegant hats, gloves and dresses.
Family members said funeral arrangements have not yet been finalized. Smith said her colleagues plan to honor and remember their special friend who inspired so many.
“A lot of people retire and sit there and do nothing,” Smith said. “The spirit of her getting up every morning, going out and knowing she had a responsibility to protect the kids – that’s what kept her going.”