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Posted on Thu, Nov 17, 2011 : 6:35 p.m.

Missing: The 'little man' from Beakes Street yard

By Paula Gardner

Updated:Owner asks thief to return missing crossing guard sign from Beakes Street

He's a smiling neighborhood ambassador, a relic from an earlier era and a memento from a long marriage. And "the little man" is missing.

That little man is a vintage metal crossing guard figure that's graced the North Fourth Avenue-side yard of the Seeley home at the corner of Beakes for many years.

"I was walking by yesterday and saw he wasn't there," said neighbor Margaret Schankler. "My heart stopped."


This vintage crossing guard sign is missing from a home on Beakes Street in Ann Arbor - and the neighborhood wants it back.

Margaret Schankler

She learned that the figure had disappeared on Saturday from the yard of its owner, Johnnie Mae Seeley. She kept him the yard, where her late husband, Howard Seeley - a junk collector, among his other activities - had deposited him years ago.

Schankler says Howard Seeley was a fixture in the Kerrytown-area neighborhood. The crossing guard, with his ever-present smile and guiding hand, seemed to pay tribute to his memory.

Schankler said she's been in the neighborhood for 13 years, and the figure has been there all that time. She grew used to seeing him and witnessing children's reaction to him as they passed.

"It was just a part of the neighborhood for anyone who’s been around for a while," she said.

Neighbor John Hilton agreed.

"He was so engaging, just like a person," he said.

That "little man" as the Seeleys called him disappeared once before, Hilton said, but he reappeared some time later.

And the Seeleys did their part to make sure he stayed home: They encased his feet in cement, and Schankler recalls he may have been chained to the fence for a time.

Hilton took Johnnie Mae Seeley to the Ann Arbor Police Department to report the theft.

The officer who took the report appeared startled that the crossing guard had made it home once before after the previous incident. Memories differ on the details, Hilton said, but the figure had been gone about a year and a half that time.

Hilton said Johnnie Mae is most concerned about the sentimental value of the crossing guard. " 'It meant so much to my husband,' " is how Hilton describes her reaction.

After decades in her Beakes Street house, Johnnie Mae had much of her late husband's finds cleared out of the yard, Hilton said, though there's still some red, white and blue paint on a tree from a long ago July 4 barbecue.

"She's cleared it up a lot," he said. Still, the "little man" stood watch at the corner.

Now Hilton, Schankler and other neighbors are spreading the word: Johnnie Mae Seeley wants "the little man" to come home.

"This is the time to get people out there looking," said Hilton, the editor of the Ann Arbor Observer. "Of course, (the thief) thought it was cool.

"But it was Mr. Seeley's," he said. "It wasn't theirs to take."

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Paula Gardner is news director of She can be reached by email or Twitter.



Wed, Nov 23, 2011 : 8:31 p.m.

Probably in the dorm room of an elitist student at an expensive local university.


Sun, Nov 20, 2011 : 9:07 a.m.

Without disrespecting the victim, I couldn't help smiling at the choice of phrasing: "She kept him the yard, where her late husband, Howard Seeley - a junk collector, among his other activities - had deposited him years ago." I will from here on be using "among my other activities" when describing myself. Blessings and good luck to Mrs. Seeley.


Sat, Nov 19, 2011 : 12:42 a.m.

Howard was a hoarder but a fabulous man. Mrs. Seeley, I would guess regards this as a piece of Howard that she still has left. She is over 90 years old and is one of the nicest people in our community. I implore to those who took it, PLEASE bring it back!

Wystan Stevens

Fri, Nov 18, 2011 : 11:58 p.m.

<a href="" rel='nofollow'></a>

Wystan Stevens

Fri, Nov 18, 2011 : 11:57 p.m.

So that sign is a valuable Coca Cola collector's item. Who knew? No wonder it got snatched. But now its high value as a collectible puts this cruel abduction in the felony category. What the &quot;Slow / School Zone&quot; sign looked like originally:


Fri, Nov 18, 2011 : 11:07 p.m.

I was the Seeley's neighbor for quite awhile. It will warm Mrs. Seeley's heart to know that so many people are thinking such good thoughts on her behalf and even wondering about how to replace the little man. He's very likely irreplaceable, but one other acts of kindness are easier to achieve: send a card, stop by to say hello, bring over some food, let her know you're thinking of her. The winter months can get lonely for someone who thrives on good company :)


Fri, Nov 18, 2011 : 4:06 p.m.

We could pitch in and get her a new one. Reply to this post if there is some interest: <a href="" rel='nofollow'>;_trkparms=algo%3DPI.WATCH%26its%3DC%252BS%26itu%3DUCC%26otn%3D15%26ps%3D63%26clkid%3D4284820492910973649</a>


Fri, Nov 18, 2011 : 9:35 p.m.

Wow. That is like hers with no paint on it. But it's up to $475 or so now. I think the value to her was that it belonged to her late husband though. This is a sad story.


Fri, Nov 18, 2011 : 9:31 p.m.

Very nice thought, Jim, but would it mean the same to her if it were not her husband's original? Could this be the original? Can A2 police retrieve from Canada?


Fri, Nov 18, 2011 : 4 p.m.

Hmm..... NOTE: <a href="" rel='nofollow'></a> Maybe someone got sticky fingers when they saw it on Canadian pickers.

Go Blue

Fri, Nov 18, 2011 : 3:43 p.m.

To you, and you know who you are, who took something that clearly was none of your business - put it back, now. Just do it and don't ever do something so selfish and inconsiderate again. Next time you are tempted, engage brain and think first. You have no clue what damage you are doing with a silly prank.


Fri, Nov 18, 2011 : 10:25 p.m.

Hate to say it, it is scrap metal by now.


Fri, Nov 18, 2011 : 2:49 p.m.

Won't see that thing anytime soon what with those scrap metal thieves who are stealing anything that is not nailed down or nailed down. Sad to say it, it is now melted metal. Good luck getting it back in this day and age.


Fri, Nov 18, 2011 : 1:52 p.m.


Wolf's Bane

Fri, Nov 18, 2011 : 1:30 p.m.

Joe Tiboni's yard on Spring street has a some cool junk pieces as well.


Fri, Nov 18, 2011 : 6:53 p.m.

Yep..its junk all right.


Fri, Nov 18, 2011 : 1:24 p.m.

On the one hand, I am happy to live in a city that is so safe that this sort of thing makes front page news. On the other hand I feel this article belongs on craigslist in the lost and found section, don't we have better things to write about


Fri, Nov 18, 2011 : 9:28 p.m.

No, this theft belongs right here where a good part of our community will see it and perhaps, we hope, report if they have seen it. I don't know how many of us go on Craig's list to see what might have been stolen and may now be for sale in the A2 area, but I certainly don't. What would you describe as a &quot;better thing(s) to write about?&quot;


Fri, Nov 18, 2011 : 3:51 p.m.

You must be from the time AFTER people talked to one another about problems...only using 'social networking' and such. A2.Com is the perfect place to look for this pilfered item.

Wolf's Bane

Fri, Nov 18, 2011 : 1:20 p.m.

Unfortuantely, the vintage crossing guard sign was worth too much to remain in the yard on Beakes. If you are going to display vintage artifacts that are worth a lot of money, please secure them accordingly.


Fri, Nov 18, 2011 : 2:13 p.m.

Yeah, I wrote to Antique Archaeology and told them to be on the lookout for it. seriously.

Peter Jameson

Fri, Nov 18, 2011 : 6:33 a.m.

I'm fairly sure that i saw that exact police figure in my buddies place on campus. They were getting ready to paint it up thought, so maybe its too late.


Fri, Nov 18, 2011 : 3:48 p.m.

I hope you called them right away!


Fri, Nov 18, 2011 : 2:54 p.m.

I really don't think he has it. Especially since this web site has your email address and possibly a phone and whatever else info you. So, if they are serious? The ;police will come a knocking.


Fri, Nov 18, 2011 : 12:26 p.m.

It's not too late, even if it is painted over. They can just bring it back. Please help by talking to them, won't you? I'm sure they had no idea that this was so special to someone. If they have a heart they will want Mrs. Seely to have it back in any condition. We can fix it.


Fri, Nov 18, 2011 : noon

Peter, if you are serious why not help to get it returned.


Fri, Nov 18, 2011 : 4:29 a.m.

Who ever took this little man from Johnnie Mae, please just return it. This is a serious PRANK, I can't imagine what the crook would do with it. (but destroy memories) Hopefully somebody will see it, pick it up and return it to Johnnie.

Wolf's Bane

Fri, Nov 18, 2011 : 1:21 p.m.

This vintage crossing guard sign, not a little woman.


Fri, Nov 18, 2011 : 4:15 a.m.

This guy not only means more to Mrs. Seeley than you know, it also means a lot to this neighborhood. I hope that the guilty party quietly returns him soon. Mr. Seeley hunted that thing down last time it was taken and cemented it in the ground to try to prevent this from occurring. The Seeleys contributed so much to this town and neighborhood.

Ryan Munson

Fri, Nov 18, 2011 : 3:56 a.m.

Mrs. Seeley: I remember talking to you about this sign and how it means so much to you. I hope the perpetrator returns the sign as not only is it iconic but its sentimental value is so much greater. Mrs. Seeley is an Ann Arbor name and I hope the comments here are read by enough people that even if a friend of the person(s) that took the sign are remorseful enough to report or bring it back.

Berda Green

Fri, Nov 18, 2011 : 1:43 a.m.

who ever took him plz bring him back he has been there for yrs and its not right miss seely is a good woman plz

Kevin Jacobi

Fri, Nov 18, 2011 : 1:27 a.m.

I had the privilege and the honor to be the funeral home of choice that helped to celebrate and honor Mr. Seeley life when he passed on. Mrs. Seeley has become a treasured member of those special people in Ann Arbor whom I love and have cared for. The "Little Man" has also been a special friend of mine as well, as I drove into work and back home he was always there waving. Mrs. Seeley does not deserve or need these senseless shenanigans that have been pulled on her. That "little Man" was a treasure to both her and her husband and to have some fool take that away from her is shameful and disgusting; Mrs. Seeley herself is a treasure and should not be subject to such pranks; you fools who have taken her memories and her processions should be ashamed of yourselves, I only hope you can understand the sentimental value of "The Little Man" and put him back where he belongs!


Fri, Nov 18, 2011 : 12:53 a.m.

I must have driven by that corner 5000 times and never saw it.


Fri, Nov 18, 2011 : 12:44 a.m.

If you have any information about the whereabouts of the Little Man, please call the Ann Arbor police desk, 994-6920, and refer to case number 11-56130. Thank you!


Fri, Nov 18, 2011 : 12:27 a.m.

To the person with this sitting in their living room and smiling: There are certainly worse things you could do to this dear sweet woman, but not as many as you think. Please give it back. Karma has a very long memory.

Craig Lounsbury

Fri, Nov 18, 2011 : 12:42 a.m.

ditto. It might seem somewhat &quot;harmless&quot; to many folks but that little sign is a neighborhood icon as was Mr Seeley and is Mrs. Seelely.