Dennis Burns has worked as a janitor for the St. Peter School District for more than 35 years, but this Friday he hung up his broom and dustpan, leaving the halls of North Elementary behind.
“I’m 63 years old and I started working on July 1, 1977,” Burns said. “I originally worked for the old Central School and when they closed Central I moved over to North.”
Burns said he’s worked at almost all of the district’s school over the years, but has worked almost exclusively at North Intermediate for more than 10 years. He has been head custodian at the school for the past three years.
“Dennis has been here every since I started teaching 26 years ago,” said Julie Frey, a special education teacher at North Intermediate. “He’s always a friendly smile. He cares about everybody.”
Frey said Burns was always on call to lend a hand, even if he was busy and that he always remembered everyone’s birthday. Burns will be missed, Frey said of his retirement.
“He’s just a really hardworking, caring person,” Frey said. “I know it’s a hard decision for him to make. It’s been a big part of his life. He’s been a part of a lot of people’s lives.”
Mary Johnson, a media specialist at North Intermediate, said that she has known Burns for several years as well.
“When I first came to North Intermediate, he was the night time custodian,” Johnson said. “He was very accommodating and always ready to help. He’s been a very good friend.”
On the Wednesday before Burns left the school, he was honored for his many years of service. Students lined the front sidewalk as he rode on the back of a truck through the parking lot and accepted cards, posters and gifts from the students.
“I think they will miss him,” Johnson said.
Burns said he appreciated the send off and that he will miss working for the school, though he’s looking forward to his retirement.
“I’ve never seen them do that for anyone,” Burns said. “It made it very special. I don’t get up in the morning saying ‘God I can’t wait to get to work to mop a bathroom’, but I do enjoy seeing the staff and students every day. They make it fun and interesting.”
Now that Burns is done working, he said he’ll take a timeout, sit back in his recliner and think about what to do next.
“I think it was just time,” Burns said. “I appreciate all the friends I’ve made here at the school. They’re like a big family. They’ve helped me so much in my life. I’ll miss them.”
Reach reporter Jessica Bies at 507-931-8578 or follow her on Twitter.com @sphjessicabies