Oh, gosh. I love the world. That's why I do this. It's just my life. I've been a widow for 17 years, and I look so forward to coming out and being part of life. —LeOra Farnsworth
HOLLADAY — Drawing out each syllable in a sing-song voice, sixth-grader Zaymab Ismail praised crossing guard LeOra Farnsworth for smiling "every single day."
Zaymab regularly uses the crosswalk at 1605 Spring Lane, where she's greeted by the winsome crossing guard.
"She is the best, nice — everything," Zaymab said. "I really like her."
Farnsworth, 79, got a big surprise Friday morning as she began her 40th year as a crossing guard. She came out of her house to find Gov. Gary Herbert, about 10 law enforcement officers and members of the media gathered in her cul-de-sac.
Farnsworth laughed and gushed as she accepted a plaque and flowers in her honor.
"What a deal this is," she said. "Oh, you make my heart beat. I so love you all."
Farnsworth has been a crossing guard for Spring Lane Elementary School for about 29 years. Before that, she was a crossing guard at Woodstock Elementary School in Salt Lake City. She said she loves her job.
"Oh, gosh. I love the world. That's why I do this," Farnsworth said. "It's just my life. I've been a widow for 17 years, and I look so forward to coming out and being part of life."
Children, she said, shouldn't expect anything less than a smile everyday.
"You get up and you put a smile on your face, and you go greet the people," she said. "(It's) surprising how many faces you can get to smile back. A smile goes a long way."
Zaymab said her mother loves Farnsworth "so, so, so much," and will bring the veteran crossing guard lunch, doughnuts and even ice cream on hot days.
The sixth-grader said Farnsworth calls her "Princess" because of the hijab she wears, usually with jewels and adornments at the crown of her head.
Salt Lake County Sheriff Jim Winder said he felt the need to recognize crossing guards when he found out a guard left after 30 years of service and wasn't recognized.
"It immediately dawned on me that we have really dropped the ball," Winder said. "It got us thinking collectively about our own crossing guard."
He said his own children "adore" their crossing guard and it was time for all crossing guards to be recognized.
"LeOra really typifies what we see at the Unified Police Department," Winder said. "These people not only work, but they work every day. They don't call in sick. They love the kids, (and) the community knows them."
The governor read a proclamation to the crowd Friday, declaring the first day of the 2013-14 school year as Crossing Guard Appreciation Day in Utah.
"Crossing guards are kind of the unsung heroes of our school experience," Herbert said. "They're just good people. They're in many ways kind of like parents and grandparents, herding the children to school. The children love them."
Farnsworth, who said she started as a crossing guard at about age 36, said she's not ready to stop ushering children across the street anytime soon.
"It's a job that can last a lifetime, and I plan on living a few more years," she said. "I'm too young to die."
Age is just a number, Farnsworth said, and she wants to "keep on trucking."
"I don't want my tires to go flat," she said with a hearty laugh.