Popular crossing guard Eric Saide guides a student safely across 24 Avenue in South Surrey. Below

Popular crossing guard Eric Saide guides a student safely across 24 Avenue in South Surrey. Below

‘Amazing’ South Surrey crossing guard remembered

Popular longtime crossing guard Eric Saide died Thursday at Peace Arch Hospital

A popular South Surrey crossing guard is being remembered as a sweet man who was “so great” with kids.

Eric Saide – who guided children safely across two of South Surrey’s busiest road for nearly two decades – died Thursday at Peace Arch Hospital. He was 86.

“That man was amazing,” Saide’s wife of 47 years, Carol, said Monday.

Saide became a well-known sight to drivers starting in 1998, when he began watching over children crossing 176 Street at 20 Avenue, as they headed to the now-closed Grandview Elementary.

After eight years, he took up post in the 17100-block of 24 Avenue, where students heading to and from Pacific Heights Elementary counted on his watchful eye, and motorists came to know his trademark two-finger wave.

“Never the hand open, always the ‘V’ sign,” Saide told Peace Arch News in a December 2015 interview … “At the beginning, only maybe 50 per cent would wave back.”

Saide – who had eight children, nine grandchildren and five great-grandchildren – officially retired from his crossing-guard duties just over a year ago.

At the retirement assembly, students spoke of Saide’s friendly smile and teachers described him as “all the students’ favourite person.”

Former students echoed the sentiments online, thanking Saide for his years of service and a wave that “would just permeate my heart all day.”

Saide joined the ranks of the Commonwealth Frontiersmen in 1976, and volunteered as a crossing guard because he enjoyed the people he met, took pleasure in watching all the kids grow up in front of him and didn’t like sitting around.

Born in Looma, Alta., he spent 50 years in the aviation industry, as an aircraft engineer with AirWest, then AirBC. He told PAN it was a career that afforded him opportunities few others get – including sharing a drink with future Ugandan president Idi Amin.

Carol Saide said her husband spent his last six months in the hospital, after collapsing at home in June. At that time, doctors didn’t expect him to survive more than two or three weeks, she said.

“He was so determined and so strong,” she said. “I used to tell him he’s like a Duracell battery. He goes down, and he charges up. He used to tell me, don’t be surprised, I might be here until I’m 87.”

She described the unexpected extra months in hospice as “a blessing in a way.”

“Everybody got their time with him, to talk, whatever they wanted to talk about,” she said.

“He was a really good person,” she added.

“When he died, I was hugging him and telling him how much we all loved him.”

A memorial service is set for 1 p.m. Saturday (Jan. 21) at Aldergrove Canadian Reform Church, 26655 24 Ave.; a burial is to follow, on Jan. 25 in Alberta.

Eric and Carol Saide

Surrey North Delta Leader