Joe’s Walk Talk: Standing Guard and Lighting Up the World

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Debra Martinez: Crossing Guard (Photo by Joe Bieker/ Longmont Observer)

Amidst the ‘fake news,’ social media hacks, and the everyday non-real social contact we as a society immerse ourselves within and drift towards, there are those among us who still astound us.

For years (37 to be exact), many of us in Longmont have enjoyed the beautiful Christmas Holiday season lights and Disney animations that have been provided free of charge off Lincoln and 2nd Avenue. It takes a lot of preparation each year, two months, to set up all the displays and string the lights, cover up against the weather at night, shovel the snow, pay for the electricity, etc. each year. Tom and Debra Martinez are the couple, married 42 years, behind the generosity of output for the community.

What may come as a surprise is that Debra is also an everyday city street crossing guard at 3rd and Bowen. She is known for her charismatic wave and genuine smile directly at all of the vehicles and pedestrians that use that intersection in the mornings and the afternoons.

It a result of her enthusiastic endeavors, that she currently sports a forearm cast because of a broken finger she suffered why holding out a stop sign on a particularly gusty day and the sign wedged against her thumb, crushing part of it. This, all in the service of safeguarding others. Soon her cast will come off and she hopes to return to normal, helping people go off to school and return home safely each day, a seemingly small act but one that can have huge impacts on families and the community.

The former Mrs. Longmont and runner-up Mrs. Colorado enjoys “ being around kids, talking to them, and getting to know them. Usually at first they are a bit shy, but after a year I get to know them quite well and they tell me everything!”

Debra started at the same intersection crossing as a volunteer 35 years ago when her boys were going to school. She had to stop working as a crossing guard for a brief time about 20 years go after a car accident, in which she suffered two shoulder surgeries, a broken neck, and trauma to her brain that took her two and a half years to recuperate from. She had been hit head on by a 16 year old driver who crossed directly into her lane.

Even though Debra still suffers from chronic pain, the job as a crossing guard has helped her to deal with getting out of the house and hopefully bringing some joy to everybody she comes into contact with.

The special words of gratitude Debra often receives touch her heart too. She read a note she received just the day before from a little girl of about seven years old, “thanks much for smiling and waving at all of us in the cars every day, and helping keep us little children safe.”

The job requires Debra to be on site about an hour in the morning and one hour in the afternoon, which keeps her close to home and work. She also is a local conversationalist with the people needing to take their walks or just walking their dogs in the neighborhood.

The Christmas lights began because as a young girl growing up Debra had a fondness for the lights her family and grandfather would put up each year. She wanted to extend the tradition to her boys.

Several years ago when Debra owned a limousine car rental company, one of her charitable gifts was to work with the Children’s Make a Wish Foundation. One particular girl, around five years old, was going to Disneyland. Debra outfitted her ride with all sorts of Disney themed items, including a movie playing on the VCR.

The girl tapped on the glass separating Debra from the girl lamented how there wasn’t anything like Disneyland to see in Longmont. Debra then got the inspiration for the Disney themed lights and displays and that’s how they got started into the large display presentations.

The extra electrical bill for the display is about $400.00 for the season. Last year a local construction company dropped off a check for $200.00 to help out.

Last year was also difficult as Tom fell ill and went into the hospital for a week just before Christmas and that left all the duties to Debra to maintain. Complicating matters, one of their grandchildren was admitted to Children’s Hospital during that period. Debra was commuting between her house project, her husband and her grandchild. Fortunately, all of them have recuperated and are doing well today.

They used to have a neighbor who volunteered as Santa, but he moved away. The owner two years ago of the local Chic-fil-a restaurant heard about her attempt to try to bring a smile to everyone’s face and dropped off coupons for a free sandwich to all the kids who visited on Saturdays.

Unbeknownst to the Martinez’s until a couple years ago, their house had been listed on the KARE 9 website of homes to see for the Holidays. That has brought visitors from as far away as England.

As to the neighbors and their thoughts of the lights and resultant heavy traffic, they all are ok with the display, except for one neighbor directly across the street. This neighbor went to the extent a couple years ago to put a poster of “Scrooge” up in her living room window.

If I were a direct neighbor of Debra’s, I’d be honored to count her as a friend who guards the little ones and helps light up everybody’s world!


  1. Nice work Joe. I see Debra nearly every day. Her smile and waive a standard. I’ve always wondered who this person is.

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