After 32 years of standing guard over a neighborhood's children, Rena Beans has hung up her whistle for good.
On Friday, Beans shepherded her last group of schoolchildren across the intersection at Sudley Manor and Dublin drives. Children and parents waved and blew her kisses as a send-off.
"It's been exceptional," said Beans, 64, who is retiring to Martinsburg, W.Va., with her husband. "I've always enjoyed the kids. They've made it all worthwhile."
Beans has helped thousands of children cross the street safely. Many of the students she used to protect are now parents who trust her with their own children today. She has been a fixture at her intersection outside Sudley Elementary School for 15 years.
Maj. Dan Taber of the Prince William County police presented Beans with a plaque Friday, marking her tenure that began Sept. 1, 1970. The woman Taber dubbed "the reigning duchess of crossing guards" also received a police badge and patch. Taber and Beans then hugged after the brief ceremony on her corner.
Beans has seen a lot over the years. She remembers walking children from their driveways to school after winter storms, when snow drifts were taller than her young charges. She said she loved seeing the children smile, and for those whose teeth were chattering or who got soaked in bad weather, she always kept an extra coat or gloves in her car.
As Beans walked away from her job for the last time, she was escorted to her car by two of her supervisors. Friday ended a 32-year career without a mishap.