2 from Newberry killed in crash with tractor-trailer


In this Feb. 1, 2013 file photo, school crossing guard Julia Barlow, next to her husband and fellow guard, Wilbur Barlow, reacts upon being recognized as the Alachua County School Crossing Guard of the Year. The Barlows died in a traffic crash in Levy County on Wednesday night.

Erica Brough/The Gainesville Sun
Published: Thursday, February 21, 2013 at 7:56 a.m.
Last Modified: Thursday, February 21, 2013 at 12:14 p.m.

Two familiar faces were missing from school crossings at Archer Road and at Newberry Elementary School on Thursday as parents, law enforcement and school officials mourned the death of two volunteer crossing guards.

Wilbur Ladue Barlow, 76, and his wife, Julia Barlow, 77, two longtime guards, were killed in a Wednesday night accident in Levy County.

"It's such a tragedy," Sheriff Sadie Darnell said.

The couple was remembered Thursday as being deeply religious and dedicated to their tasks for ensuring safety for children. Julia Barlow on Feb. 1 was named Alachua County school crossing guard of the year.

The Barlows, of Newberry, were killed when their car collided with a tractor-trailer that was blocking the road as it attempted to back into private property, reported the Florida Highway Patrol.

The accident occurred about 8:20 p.m. on U.S. 41 near Levy County Road 335.

A tractor-trailer driven by Floyd A. Watt, 46, of Winter Park, was facing west across the north and southbound lanes of U.S. 41 attempting to back onto private property just south of CR 335, FHP reported.

Wilbur Barlow was driving a 2012 Toyota Prius north on U.S. 41 with Julia Barlow a passenger. FHP said the front and top portion of the Prius collided with the trailer, tearing the roof completely off.

The car continued to travel about 625 feet northwesterly before ending up on the west shoulder.

The Barlows died at the scene, FHP reported. Charges are pending the outcome of the investigation.

Sheriff's officials said the Barlows have been crossing guards since 2004 and 2005. Wilbur Barlow was a guard at Newberry Elementary School while Julia Barlow stood watch over the busy Tower/Archer Road crossing zone for Wiles Elementary and Kanapaha Middle School.

Julia Barlow recently told The Sun that the work goes beyond stopping cars.

"I check up on the kids when they're sick and wave and tell them I'll see them tomorrow," she said. "I do love my job. I get to help people and try to make them smile."

School district Superintendent Dan Boyd said that while the crossing guard programs are operated by law enforcement agencies, the guards are an integral part of schools.

Boyd attended the annual crossing guard appreciation ceremony on Feb. 1 and was struck by Julia Barlow's character.

"Every time I've seen (crossing guards), they exemplify service, care for the students and truly serve in … replace of parents. It's just a wonderful group," Boyd said. "When Julia received the award, she was just delighted but very humble."

Crossing guard Rejoice Brazil, who works the zone in front of Wiles, said she and Julia would often meet at a shopping plaza at Tower/Archer to socialize before they took their posts.

"It hurt my heart this morning when I heard it. Julia was a sweet person, a real sweet person," Brazil said. "She is like a family member. She was such a Christian, sweet person."

Sheriff's spokesman Art Forgey said Wilbur Barlow was a volunteer minister at the jail. Forgey said he has known Wilbur Barlow for several years and described him as a polite and friendly man.

"Any time there was a crossing guard gathering and I went into the room, he would get up and come across the room to shake hands and talk to me," Forgey said. Wilbur Barlow "was a super individual. He was a very respectful person."

FHP Sgt. Tracy Pace said the accident remains under investigation. Questions about how well the trailer was lighted and similar issues should be answered during the investigation, Pace added.

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