Lifestyle & Human Interest

83-Year-Old Janitor Elected King by Students on His Last Day Before Retirement


At 83 years old, school custodian John Lockett could see the finish line of his career and determined to finish strong.

Hardworking until retirement, Lockett finished like a king, honored at the end of the school year by the students and teachers he had loved for so many years who made him royalty for a day.

Lockett has worked for the Carroll County School System in Georgia for 12 years as a dedicated custodian.

Lockett did his best to diligently maintain the campus and worked with a caring heart that earned him a reputation as the loving grandfather — or even great-grandfather — around the school.

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In December, Lockett began to experience some health problems.

Carla Meigs, the principal of Sand Hill Elementary School where Lockett has worked for the past six years, suggested he retire in December to focus on his health.

But Lockett refused, saying he wanted just one final semester with his students and a chance to end his career on his terms.

When the end of the school year rolled around, the Sand Hill staff and students planned a grand farewell for their beloved custodian, surprising him with a kingly sendoff.

Lockett’s wife of 25 years, Annie Julia Lockett, was in on the secret and had a pretty good idea of how her husband would respond.

“I knew he was gonna cry,” Annie told WXIA-TV.

On May 17, students and staff gathered together to celebrate “Mr. John Day,” complete with cake, cards, applause and some royal attire.

“Mr. John,” as the students call him, was draped in a red cape and a royal crown was placed on his head.

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As he walked down the hallway to the cheers and smiles of his students, kids filled the basket in his hand with notes, pictures, and gift cards.

Lockett was overwhelmed with the love he felt from the people he has come to know as family.

“It really was a surprise to me,” Lockett later told CNN. “Tears came rolling down my face. I didn’t know if I’d be able to walk down the hall.”

Meigs said it was important to the Sand Hill community to honor their beloved custodian.

“We just wanted to find a way to honor him,” Meigs said.

“He’s a role model for the students. He is the epitome of a hardworking human being who has been put on this earth to serve others.”

Lockett gushed over how much the students at school meant to him.

“Oh shucks, I love the kids so much,” Lockett said.

“There’s so much I didn’t do in my younger days. I had to find a way to make my life mean something.

“I made it my business to be a good steward,” he said. “I want to make the kids the heroes.”

Lockett crossed the finish line of his career that day, finishing strong in a royal fashion.

“The school is definitely a family to me,” Lockett said. “I love every one of those teachers.”

With hugs, tears and applause, it seems that “Mr. John Day” was a perfect success.

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A graduate of Grand Canyon University, Kim Davis has been writing for The Western Journal since 2015, focusing on lifestyle stories.
Kim Davis began writing for The Western Journal in 2015. Her primary topics cover family, faith, and women. She has experience as a copy editor for the online publication Thoughtful Women. Kim worked as an arts administrator for The Phoenix Symphony, writing music education curriculum and leading community engagement programs throughout the region. She holds a degree in music education from Grand Canyon University with a minor in eating tacos.
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