The Patron Saint of Cornfield Commuters
Jeanie Plate, known to many commuters as the Good Hope crossing guard, passed away on the final day of February. She was 73. She became popular because of a simple gesture – she waved to each and every person driving by.
During a conversation with Tri States Public Radio while she was on duty a couple years ago, Jeanie explained how her wave got started.
“My brother was the one that was behind that. ‘Cause I said it was boring waiting on the kids. And he said, ‘Why don’t you wave at people and see how many people wave at you?’ So he called me a few weeks later and he said, ‘Hey sis, how many people wave at you?” I said it wasn’t how many people waved at me that I could count. It was how many that didn’t.”
Jeanie was a fixture as the volunteer crossing guard at Route 67 and Main Street in Good Hope, stationed across the highway from West Prairie North Elementary School. Route 67 narrows from a four-lane highway to a two-lane road through Good Hope but it still carries a good deal of traffic, including hog trucks , commuters going to and from their jobs, and students driving to and from the Western Illinois University campus in Macomb.
Many of them were regulars.
“I wave at the same people every day that I’ve waved at for a long, long time,” Jeanie said.
“Oh my. I would hate to say. A long time. I raised my kids. Well, they was… I would hate to say. A long time,” she said with a laugh.
And she said most people waved back.
“And some of them, if I’m talking to somebody, they’ll beep beep beep,” Jeanie said, adding she enjoyed the interaction.
“It brightens my day. I can’t vouch for drivers but I can vouch for me. I just like people.”
Jeanie Plate ran a beauty shop for 50 years. But as her obituary noted, “Most will remember her for her big smile and friendly wave.”
And she is remembered. After her death, people left flowers at her corner along with a large pink ribbon that is clearly visible from the highway – a makeshift memorial to the patron saint of cornfield commuters.