Long-time Centerville Elementary School crossing guard Charles Louis Whirley Jr., 82, of New Market, passed away on Sunday, March 8, at Frederick Memorial Hospital. Although Whirley had suffered health problems in recent months, many families were shocked and saddened by the beloved crossing guard’s death.
“Charlie was a great ambassador and face of Centerville,” said Glenn Smith, whose children are Centerville Elementary School students — Riley is a fourth grader and Mayson is in second grade. Students and parents alike loved him and looked forward to his greetings and smiling face morning and afternoon as they crossed Carriage Hill Drive. “In the hectic coming and goings at Centerville his and his partner, Joan’s, caring nature and cheerful demeanor helped start everyone’s day with a positive push,” said Smith. “He will be missed.”
Fellow parent Jenn Blessing agreed. “Mr. Charlie knew every child’s name and they loved seeing him each day,” said Blessing, who has three children at CES: fourth grader Emma, second grader Devyn and Drew, who is in kindergarten. “He could tell on days when I was a little frazzled and would say something to make me laugh. I’m not sure if he ever realized how big an impact his presence, smile and kind words at the crosswalk [made on] the children and parents who attend CES. We were so very lucky to have people like Mr. Charley in our children’s lives.”
Whirley worked at the busy intersection of Carriage Hill Road and Sugarloaf Parkway for more than five years with partner Joan Ryave. “Charlie was my buddy,” Ryave said. “He was my best buddy.”
Whirley served 18 years in the United States Army, four years in active duty and 14 years in the reserves as a Master Sargent and Green Beret. He later worked as a police officer for the Montgomery County Police Department and for the City of Rockville as an inspector before becoming a superintendent of road construction for F. O. Day and later for Concrete General. Whirley then went to work for Montgomery County Public Schools as a bus driver until finally working what he considered his most important and favorite job, as a Frederick County Schools Crossing Guard. Glenn Smith attended Whirley’s memorial service where family members mentioned his love of his “job” at Centerville as one of his life high points.
Whirley was the husband of 48 years to Letteria “Lily” (Scipilliti) Whirley. He is also survived by four children, two sisters, six grandchildren and six great-grandchildren and several nieces and nephews.
Smith said he plans to talk to other parents about possibly placing a bench near the school crossing in Whirley’s honor. Fellow guard Ryave said she teared up each time she saw more homemade cards, letters and flowers left for Whirley during the week. On Friday, March 13, Ryave collected each piece and took them to Charlie’s wife, Lily.
New crossing guard Penny Vargo knows she has big shoes to fill. Vargo has been an alternate guard at several FCPS schools and said CES is the most challenging intersection she has seen. She already loves the kids, knows many by name and wants to do her best to keep the families safe.
Memorial donations may be made in Whirley’s honor to the Centerville Elementary School at 301 Carriage Hill Drive, Frederick, Md. 21704. Condolences may be shared with the family at www.keeneybasford.com.