At the intersection of Palo Blanco and Pleasant Valley, near Mendez Middle School, there’s a makeshift memorial: Signs, balloons, candles and handwritten notes have been hung to pay homage to the man who guided school kids to safety at that intersection for the past 15 years.
Richard Tuttle was an unassuming man: 78 years old, bushy white mustache, a U.S. Marines ballcap or sometimes a fluorescent yellow one. But his kindness was on display every time you saw him.
He died last week, according to a spokesperson for the city's Public Works Department, which runs the crossing guard program.
Chris said he looked forward to Richard’s wave every day.
“This is like a full-on, Texas howdy, how-you-doing, good morning. It’s like an emotional cup of coffee,” Chris told us. "Just the act of seeing him doing it...it just makes you take life for what it is — a wonderful gift.”
We went to meet Richard in March, as school was letting out.
He told us he grew up in North Carolina on his family’s farm. His father would get him and his siblings up at 2:30 in the morning (his mother would already have breakfast on the table) to go work in the field. He worked as a union carpenter for years. A job brought him to Austin, where his wife is from, in the 1990s and he stayed. His wife had two sons from a previous marriage and they had one grandson.
After he retired, a friend suggested he become a crossing guard.
"I don’t set around and get still for nothing, like most people,” Richard told us. "When they retire, they retire — that’s it. I’m not like that.”
We really wanted to understand why he waved at everyone who passed. A simple gesture that meant a lot to people who came through that intersection every day.
"I just love everybody,” Richard said. "I just got that feeling in my heart, you know? I just love everybody — try to anyhow. And I just started throwing my hand up at everybody when they come by … and I still do it.”
Chris wanted him to know how much it meant to him.
“You’ve impacted my life – and I’m sure countless other people – just by putting that good energy out into the world,” he told him.
"Makes me feel good to know that I have touched somebody around here,” Richard replied.
It’s clear from the items left at the memorial where Richard stood guard that he made a difference in many lives.
A note signed by the Santiago family reads: “Your good mornings and goodbyes always made my day. May you rest in peace. Heaven has gained another angel.”
Another, signed by a child named Jasmine, thanks him for helping people cross the busy intersection.
“I love you, like if you were a part of my family and you are sweet,” it says.
Funeral arrangements for Richard Tuttle are pending.