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The Man Behind the Vest

Q&A with Bob Mirtha

Many of you may recognize Bob Mirtha, but not by his name.  His genuine smile and reflective vest are a steady presence every school day at the four way stop outside of Essex High School. We interviewed Bob Mirtha to learn more about himself and what he does.

The Hive: Hi,  I’m going to be asking you a few questions about yourself. To start, what’s your name? 

Mirtha: Mirtha. Bob Mirtha.

The Hive:  Nice to meet you. How did you start working as a crossing guard?

Mirtha: I retired from my job of 35 years, and I was just looking for something to do because my wife had just passed away. So I wanted to get out of the house.

The Hive: How long have you been working as a crossing guard?

Mirtha: For seven years now.

The Hive: What was your job before?

Mirtha: I was a meat cutter, a butcher for retail for Hannaford. Oh, Hannafords. It’s awesome.

The Hive: Do you have any kids or family in the district?

Mirtha: So I have two daughters and two grandsons. Really, they’re amazing.

The Hive: Are they close? Are they still in high school? Did they graduate? 

Mirtha: Nope. The two daughters graduated from here in Essex, and my grandsons are ten and three, and they’ll be going to Colchester High School.

The Hive: Okay, do you enjoy your job? 

Mirtha: Yes, I like it. The kids are amazing, they really are. I get the little ones all the way up to the high school.

The Hive:  Oh, that’s awesome. Do some elementary students also come through?

Mirtha crossing students outside EHS (Sophia Lu)

Mirtha:  Quite a bit actually. I get the Summit Street lot and then I get to high school. I cross about 100 kids in the morning, and a little over 100 in the afternoon. 

The Hive: How are the cold days or the rainy days? 

Mirtha: Yes, the weather is brutal. But I used to be a skier so I use all my ski equipment and its layers.  It works really well. I rarely get cold, but I look like a snowman a lot. 

The Hive: Are there any standout people you have met? 

Mirtha: There was a student last year, she was a senior. And she ended up going to a really pristine College in Boston, MIT, I believe it was, and she was super for a person. She was gifted. She was good at music and she had a great personality. Her mom used to pull down the street right here and I would cross there and she would jump in the car and it worked out. They had the timing down really good. And she was a super, super good kid and she stood out very much. Yes, yes, she was so nice. 

Mirtha: And then I’ll get some kids that’ll get their license. And then they’ll come by and they’ll stop and say, “you know, you’re not crossing me anymore. I got my license now,” because they drive and I go “good for you.” And that’s what makes my day. 

The Hive: So, a little more of a personal question; what are some of your hobbies?

Mirtha: Old cars. And the kids know it because I bring a different car all the time. And they always question me about my cars. So I like old cars, and I collect antique toys. The winter cars in Vermont don’t really work out so well. So that’s what I do in the winter. I get them at flea markets and yard sales and places like that.

The Hive: What we were talking about before was kind of a segue into my next question, because it seems like a lot of people notice your truck. Could you tell me something about it?

 Mirtha: It’s a 1981 GMC Sierra. And it happens to be the same year that I graduated from this school. I graduated from Essex High School in 1981. And now I’m driving a 1981 pickup truck to cross the kids!  It’s kind of a cool thing. I like that. And then I have an old convertible that I drive. It’s an old Cutlass convertible that stands out. And then I have an old Impala they really like and then I have just this truck that is brand new, so they like that too. Yes. So those are my hobbies.

The Hive: Where did you grow up?

Mirtha:  I grew up on Long Island. Oh, well, we moved here when I was a sophomore in high school. So we moved to Essex, so from sophomore in high school till now I’ve lived in Essex. 

The Hive: And then you graduated. 

Mirtha: Yes. And I’ve  always lived in Essex. And I worked at Hannafords for 35 years as a butcher. So I’m an Essex boy. I started out on Long Island, and then we moved up here and it worked out really good. 

The Hive: Okay, and the final question. What’s the strangest thing you have seen while working? 

Mirtha: Well, an old guy just took a leak in the bushes over there today. Gosh, never seen that. And then yesterday a glider flew over, which is a plane with no engine. And I wouldn’t have noticed it because it wasn’t making any noise. But I looked up and it was just right above me and it was huge. And it was a glider. I’ve never seen one of those. And I see the ethics. Balloon a lot of balloons. Yeah, I see that a lot. I enjoy seeing that. But I think the strangest thing was that guy taking the leak in the bushes. Do you want to put that so we can do the glider? Glider, we’ll do the glider. It was so quiet, and it was really cool.

 Mirtha: Oh, and in this brook here, there’s a bluebird. One of those tall birds. It’s a blue heron whose parents live there. And I get here early and tip-toe over and I can say hi to him a little bit. He’s really cool. And he lives there from now till it’s too cold. Oh, not all summer though. It’s really neat. Yeah. So those are those little perks. 

The Hive: Ok, thank you so much!

Mirtha:  Oh, you’re welcome. I appreciate it. Good luck with that. 

Next time you’re crossing into or from Essex High School, be sure to greet Bob Mirtha!

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About the Contributor
Sophia Lu, Staff Writer
Sophia Lu is a 10th grader and a staff writer at The Hive. She is involved in the soccer team and track & field in the spring, as well as STEM Academy and GLP. In her free time, she enjoys playing the piano, hiking, and reading. You can contact her at [email protected].
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