NPR in Kansas City
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00
0:00
Available On Air Stations
Live Coverage: Coronavirus in the Kansas City Area
Community

Christ The King Children Say Goodbye To Crossing Guard Who Died While Protecting Them

022420_ChristKingParishSchool_FuneralMr.Bob_ZIEGLER_0.JPG
Laura Ziegler
/
KCUR 89.3
Family members and school officials planned the funeral for 'Mr. Bob' for the morning, so kids could come.

Uniform-clad students filed somberly across the parking lot from their classrooms Monday morning at Christ the King elementary, on their way to the church. They took their places in the pews, where they’ve gone to pray many times.

This gloomy morning, though, they were there to say goodbye.

“CTK LOVES MR. BOB,” was on a banner up at the altar, and above the declaration there was a quote from John 15:13. “Greater love has no one than this: To lay down one’s life for one’s friends.” Signatures in young handwriting and colored markers filled the banner.

022420_BannerCrossingGuardFuneral_Ziegler_0.JPG
Laura Ziegler
/
KCUR 89.3

Mr. Bob was their crossing guard, who was struck by a car Feb. 18 while ushering students across a busy section of Leavenworth Road to the parish school.

Christ the King Parish Catholic Church and Bob Nill’s family planned the beloved crossing guard’s funeral for 10:30 Monday morning, just to give the students he loved so much — and who loved him — an opportunity to attend.

Principal Cathy Fithian said the kids wanted to do something special for the 88 year old Nill, who’d provided a supportive smile and an encouraging word to so many of them as they started their day over the last five years.

022420_crosswalkwheremr._bobkilled-christkingschool_ziegler.jpg
Laura Ziegler
/
KCUR 89.3

“There are some balloons at the crossing guard sign and some of his friends came by with a cross,” she said. “But they wanted something more personal.”

Uniformed members of the Kansas City, Kansas, Police Department, along with friends from Nill's home church — Willard Avenue Baptist Church — extended family and fellow crossing guards, all wearing the fluorescent vests like the one Mr. Bob was wearing when he was struck, joined the students.

022420_CrossingGuard_2_MrBobFuneral_ZIEGLER_1.JPG
Laura Ziegler
/
KCUR 89.3

Connie Montoya, a crossing guard at M.E. Pearson Elementary School in Kansas City, Kansas, said she was a friend of Mr. Bob’s but had an even more personal reason to come.

“Mr. Bob crossed my grandchildren for three years. They went to school at Christ the King,” she said. “I think this scares them because they know I’m a crossing guard. They want me to quit, but I’m not. These are our kids, that’s why we’re here.”

Father Nick Blaha said he has only been at Christ the King for six months but recognizes what a significant loss it will be for the children, who know Mr. Bob as someone they saw regularly, who they loved and who cared for them.

“I think it will create the kinds of memories in them that will teach them what a person who is genuinely loving can do,” he said. “That’s a legacy that will definitely have deep root in their imaginations going forward.”

022420_mr._bobpicture_funeralchristking_ziegler.jpg
Laura Ziegler
/
KCUR 89.3

Nill was an employee of the Unified Government of Wyandotte County. Mayor David Alvey was traveling Monday but last week issued a statement expressing condolences to the family and church community.

Nill's death hit the family of U.G. employees hard, said Human Resources Director Renee Ramirez. She came to the service with several of her fellow U.G. employees.

“Mr. Nill was a very important part of the U.G. family and all the services the U.G. employees provide are what bring our community together,” she said.

In the wake of the tragedy, the parking control division of the city will be reviewing the circumstances of the accident as well as the training for all 28 guards at 24 city schools.

Spokesman Dave Reno said the city would quickly invest in new, higher visibility vests for all its crossing guards, and evaluate signage at the crosswalk where Nill was hit.

“No amount of traffic control devices can prevent this sort of thing entirely,” Reno said. “That’s the reality, but all that aside, the city is going to explore everything it can to avoid this kind of thing in the future."

Laura Ziegler is a community engagement reporter at KCUR 89.3. You can reach her on twitter @laurazig or by email at lauraz@kcur.org

KCUR serves the Kansas City region with essential news and information.
Your donation today keeps local journalism strong.