Medfield’s famous Elisabeth Mann in her garden. Photo by Geena Matuson.
By Amelia Tarallo
Hometown Weekly Staff
If you grew up in Medfield in the last 60-plus years, chances are you recognize Elisabeth Mann.
Since moving to town in 1954, Elisabeth Mann had been a shining light for Medfield. For many, she was the crossing guard who made sure they got to school safely. For others, she was a wonderful neighbor and friend. Elisabeth Mann passed away on August 8. She leaves behind not only her family, but the community she treated as such.
Mrs. Mann began working as a Medfield crossing guard in 1965. For 50 years, Mrs. Mann was the first person kids saw on their way to school. Her only job was to get them across the street safely, but she did far more than that. There are few who crossed the street who don't recall talking to Mrs. Mann about school, about their life, about their clothes, about sports. On some occasions, she would even have candy for the kids.
Christopher Allan talked to Mrs. Mann every morning on his way to school in the 1970s. "She had an impact on kids. She showed that there are good people in the world, people that will take care of you, and take really great interest in your life," said Allan. Her protectiveness didn't stop once the kids crossed. "She would tell my parents she would be really sad if my name was ever in the police blotter. She would always be really sad if one of the kids she crossed had their name appear negatively in the police blotter. She'd always want to make sure kids were straight and narrow, and that they understood to live a good life."
As a longtime teacher at Medfield High School, Richard Desorgher knew Mann's impact went far past just being a crossing guard. "She was more than just the crossing guard; she was like the kid's mother. She'd talk to them, if they didn't have their coat buttoned, she'd say 'button up your coat!' She'd know each of them by name," said Desorgher. Her motherly treatment was not only reserved for students. "I was coming to school one time and it had snowed heavily the night before, but we had school. She stopped me and scolded me because I hadn't cleared all the snow off the top of the roof of my car," he recalled. He cleared the snow off the top of his car afterwards. "She cared about everybody and wanted to make sure people did things right. She was like someone's mother or grandmother, watching out for you."
Elisabeth and her husband, Bill Mann, were known for supporting the Medfield High School sports teams, bands, and other activities. She could be found in the stands at almost every game (home and away), cheering on the players. Every mom with a senior on the Medfield High School basketball teams received a set of crocheted potholders, handmade by Elisabeth herself. She even had a reputation of replacing said potholders if she learned something had happened to one of them.
Her attendance at these events not only made her a Medfield icon, but also helped form strong friendships. Those who talked to her often learned of her life before Medfield. "My relationship with Elisabeth started over music. She and her husband, Bill, would always attend Jazz Night and we’d get to talking. From those conversations, she told me stories about her father who played all kinds of instruments, and how the entire family was musical. Elisabeth inspired me to write the Hometown Weekly story about her father’s cello, and through those conversations, I learned a lot more about who she was as a person – beyond her well-known role as a crossing guard and police chief’s wife. I’d spend hours with her hearing about growing up in Germany, the devastation of World War II, the communist invasion and her time in a post-Nazi concentration camp, and her early life in Medfield," wrote Chris McCue. "I deeply admire people who are resilient, and who not only share stories of adversity, but also how that adversity was overcome. Elisabeth was a wonderful combination of strong, tough, smart, loving, generous and kind – really, such a great role model for women today. Her passing is a huge loss for Medfield."
Elisabeth Mann has passed away, but the legacy she leaves behind will be here for years to come. Years after the potholders she lovingly crocheted are retired, people will always remember her signature smile and wave, her cheers at sports games, and her chats at concerts. Most importantly, people will remember her dedicated kindness. It is a legacy we should all want to have, but sparsely receive, for there are few people truly as kind as Elisabeth Mann.