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Head custodian at a Midvale elementary school retires after 41 years

Apr 15, 2022, 9:03 PM | Updated: Jun 11, 2022, 12:10 am

MIDVALE, Utah — There were a lot of grateful people at Midvalley Elementary School Friday as students and staff said goodbye to their head custodian after more than 40 years.

On big days like this, it can be hard to contain the excitement, especially if you’ve got a big surprise for someone important.

“I thought it was going to be a quiet day,” said James Sheely.

Sheely thought he could just walk away. But not Friday, not after 41 years — 38 of which were at Midvalley Elementary alone.

James Sheely watches his goodbye video at Midvalley Elementary School.

“I think the best thing is to be happy about what you do, then you don’t feel like you’ve worked every day,” he said.

Staff say Mr. Sheely was more than a happy face.

“The children love him. The teachers love him. The parents love him,” said Principal Margaret Swanicke. “He’s someone that people come back and visit. He’s extremely special to our community.”

Midvalley Elementary School Principal Margaret Swanicke.

Swanicke only worked with him a year, but says it’s clear to see, “he is a part of the school, a part of the history.”

And walking through the halls of Midvalley Elementary for the last time, you can see, he loves them back.

“Really touching, you know, to realize that you’re that big of a part of their life,” Sheely said.

That’s what’s kept him going for four decades — the kids he sees everyday and the ones who come back as adults.

“I had a kid come up to me and say, ‘Mr. Sheely, I remember when I was at Midvalley.’ And that was a great feeling,” he said. “You feel like a rock star when they remember you.”

And he’ll be remembered for good reason — years of keeping these grounds in top shape and caring for the kids.

“You don’t have to be a know it all,” Sheely said. “You just have to be patient.”

Sheely helped train his replacement, who starts Monday.

He will be back, though, for a lot of reasons. The biggest one perhaps is because he’s got a grandchild at the school.

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Head custodian at a Midvale elementary school retires after 41 years