Gary Cardenas says he’s retired, but he really isn’t. The Palm Springs North resident, 79, worked in banking for 37 years. Currently he is supervisor for the Town of Miami Lakes’ school crossing guard force.
While wearing a neon green vest and protecting kids from traffic as they make their way to school, he is rewarded with hugs from his young charges.
He’s also the post commander for American Legion Post 144 and treasurer of the Miami Lakes Veterans Committee. In 2015, Cardenas was chosen to be grand marshal of the town’s Veterans Parade.
As a grandfather, he serves as chauffeur and number one fan to his grandson’s ice hockey games. And though he is always on the go, Cardenas stays focused on veterans and growing the American Legion’s ranks.
Q: Where are you from and what is your background?
A: I was born in Cuba and moved to New Jersey in 1959. I served in the U.S. Army from April 1964 to 1967 and have lived in Florida since I left the military. I went to St. Thomas University where I graduated with a dual degree in business administration and information technology systems.
Q: What do you like most about Miami Lakes?
A: I like the ambiance, the closeness, everything is near you albeit sometimes difficult to get to where you want to go, but I think that’s a problem anywhere in Miami.
Q: What do you dislike about the town?
A: I don’t dislike anything about the town.
Q: What are the demands/responsibilities of your current position and what do you hope to accomplish?
A: With the school crossing guards, people think we’re safety patrol and we’re not. It’s not a volunteer job. We play the part [as] the face of the town and maintain the safety of the students and parents. It’s leaving that good impression of what the town is. The main responsibility of being a [legion commander] is growing the post. ... we keep losing a lot of veterans. Growth is important for our organization. If we don’t have a large number, then our voice is diminished.
Q: What is your biggest accomplishment, personal or career?
A: Biggest accomplishment [is] raising my family [with] my wife Nancy, and my children. Going on 54 years [of marriage], seeing the children grow [and] seeing my grandchildren grow.
Q: What would you rather be doing, what is your fantasy career?
A: My childhood fantasy career was traveling salesman.
Q: What books are you reading, are there any podcasts you’re listening to?
A: None right now, I don’t have time.
Q: What have you binge-watched on TV?
A: “Vikings: Valhalla” on Netflix.
Q: Where did you last travel to on vacation?
A: The last Disney cruise we took was on the Disney Fantasy in the Caribbean in 2013. It was my wife and I, along with our daughter, her husband, and our youngest grandson.