Joann Fithian, 61, has a long road to recovery, but she’s already talking about returning to her corner at Cedar and Allegheny in Port Richmond.
The crossing guard suffered multiple injuries including fractures to her hips and right leg and several brain hemorrhages after she was struck by a vehicle on Tuesday, Jan. 28, a few minutes before her shift ended.
Following the accident, Fithian was in critical condition and didn’t speak for several days after she first arrived at the hospital, according to her son, Gerald Cullen, 22.
“She had several hemorrhages in her brain, so it’s a wonder that she’s even here and talking,” he said.
She is now alert and speaking, with her memory coming back in bits and pieces, and she has since been transferred to a rehabilitation hospital with an estimated release sometime in April, Cullen added.
The road to recovery will be long, but it hasn’t stopped her from remembering the kids she crossed every day.
“Even now in the hospital, she’s still talking about the kids,” Cullen said “That’s her main goal. She wants to come back and tell everyone that’s she’s alright.”
While she continues to heal, a member from her crossing guard family took the initiative to help out after Fithian experienced “every crossing guard’s worst fear.”
Joan Gallagher, president of AFSCME District Council 33 School Crossing Guard, came up with the idea to have T-shirts made for a two-fold purpose.
“We thought putting a T-shirt out would get to the eyes and ears of a lot of people to just keep her in their prayers. Because that’s really what she needs now is a lot of prayers,” Gallagher said. “And, in the meantime, we can raise some money to help her out. It’s fundraising to give [her and her family] money so they can keep the house and pay the daily bills.”
Gallagher was previously a crossing guard at Comly and Academy roads in the 8th Police District.
“I just talked to [Joann] like two weeks before the accident,” she said. “She’s very outgoing. She’s a tiny little thing, but she is just so energetic and makes you laugh. She has a great personality. She’s just outgoing and bubbly. And crazy, but in a good way.”
Celtic Shirts made 150 T-shirts and Gallagher sold approximately 40 within two days of them being released.
“I knew [Celtic Shirts] was in the community, so that’s why I called to see what they could come up with,” Gallagher said.
Gallagher and Ann Fenerty, Jim’s sister and employee at Celtic Shirts, both pointed out friends of Fithian from states all across the country have purchased the shirt.
“We know this was Joann’s area and, this was a way to let people have another possible place for people to come get the shirts and we want to help.”
Kristy Silvetti does most of the embroidery at Celtic Shirts and was formerly a crossing guard at Belgrade and Clearfield streets.
“The fact that it happened two minutes before her shift was over, it was hard to hear,” she said. “I know exactly what it’s like to be out there and dodge the cars. It’s really dangerous.”
All proceeds from the sales of the shirts will go to Fithian.
For Gallagher, it’s the least she and the community can do for someone who cared so much for the kids in the neighborhood.
“She’s dedicated to her job,” Gallagher said. “She works great with the kids. I know those kids out there love her as much as she loves them.”
Cullen couldn’t agree more.
“She loved everybody she talked to and is very outgoing,” he said. “She loved the job. And, she especially loved all the kids who were on her corner.”
T-shirts benefiting Joann Fithian can be purchased for $15 at Celtic Shirts, 2537 E. Clearfield St., from Monday to Friday, from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. For questions, call Celtic Shirts at 215-427-9155.