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Kansas City, Kansas, School Mourns Loss Of 'Mr. Bob,' Crossing Guard Killed Saving Two Kids' Lives

Laura Ziegler
A crossing guard identified as Bob Nill was struck and killed Tuesday morning outside Christ the King Catholic School.

A crossing guard employed by the city of Kansas City, Kansas, died Tuesday after he pushed two schoolchildren out of the way of an oncoming car. 

The incident occurred just before 8 a.m. along the 5400 block of Leavenworth Road outside the Christ the King Catholic School. Kansas City, Kansas, Police have identified the victim as 88-year-old Bob Nill. 

Christ the King Principal Cathy Fithian called Nill a "lovely person" who had been helping kids safely across the busy road outside the school for the past five years. 

Credit Bart Nill
Students at Christ the King Catholic School called crossing-guard Bob Nill 'Mr. Bob.'

"'Mr. Bob' is what the kids called him," Fithian said. "They loved him so much."

She added, "He was always so worried about kids' safety. When there was ice on the sidewalk, he’d come up and tell us in the school so we could come up and make sure the kids wouldn’t fall. He always thought about the kids more than himself."

Nill's son, Bart Nill, 61, remembers his dad as an outgoing and big-hearted man.

"He always had a thing for children," Nill said.

He came out of retirement in his 80s to be the crossing guard at Christ the King Parish School, where he took the job of protecting children very seriously, according to his son.

But he was a humble man, and the younger Nill said his father would not appreciate the attention surrounding the accident that killed him.

"He believed we're supposed to do things because it's the right thing, not because you're to be exalted," Nill said.

Dave Reno, a spokesman for the Unified Government of Wyandotte County and Kansas City, Kansas, said Nill had been employed by the city as a crossing guard since 2015. He described Nill as "dedicated and approachable." 

"Everybody's pretty broken up about it," Reno said on Tuesday. "It's solemn around here today." 

Kansas City, Kansas, Police are investigating the incident. Investigators say a black sedan heading east struck Nill. The driver of the sedan was taken to a hospital after the incident. The driver suffered no injuries, police said on Wednesday, but they did not release the driver's name or any further details about the accident.

"We don't know if it was speeding, distracted driving or some type of intoxication was the factor," said Officer Jonathan Westbrook, a police spokesman. 

Fithian, the principal, said two children came running into the Christ the King school building just after 8 a.m. on Tuesday, saying a vehicle had hit "Mr. Bob." 

Fithian said the two children, a 3rd grader and 5th grader, had been preparing to cross the street when Nill yelled at them to stop. 

"He saved their lives. Thank God they listened to him," she said. 
The two children had some counseling before leaving to go home with their parents, who were also shaken up, according to school officials. Fithian said other area Catholic schools have offered Christ the King counseling support, but her thoughts were on Nill and his family. 

"He gave his life for the kids today," she said on Tuesday. 

The students were back at school on Wednesday, where the day began with a mass.

The pastor offered comfort with a passage from John 15:13: "There's no greater love than to lay down one's life for one's friend."

Memorial services are planned for Monday, Feb. 24 at Christ the King Catholic Church, 3024 N. 53rd Street in Kansas City, Kansas, at 10:30 a.m. Bart Nill said the time was chosen to accommodate school children who want to be there. 

There will be a visitation at the same church on Sunday, Feb. 23 from 3 to 6 p.m.

Laura Ziegler is KCUR's community engagement reporter.

Kyle Palmer is KCUR's news director. 

I partner with communities to uncover the ignored or misrepresented stories by listening and letting communities help identify and shape a narrative. My work brings new voices, sounds, and an authentic sense of place to our coverage of the Kansas City region. My goal is to tell stories on the radio, online, on social media and through face to face conversations that enhance civic dialogue and provide solutions.
Kyle Palmer is the editor of the Shawnee Mission Post, a digital news outlet serving Northeast Johnson County, Kansas. He previously served as KCUR's news director and morning newscaster.
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