Unsung Hero #154

One of the major consequences of COVID-19 is the enormous task of making our schools safe for reopening. For months the custodial and maintenance staffs at our 8 public schools have worked assiduously, doing just that.

One of the less noticed effects of the virus is that with schools closed, we don’t get a chance to see all the hard work that’s being done. Or to thank one of the key members of the staff when he leaves.

Next week, Staples High School’s head custodian Horace Lewis retires.

He would not want any fanfare. Horace is a stay-out-of-the-limelight guy. But he’s not getting away without a public acknowledgment of all he has done, and how much he has meant to the building he’s served (and loved) for so many years.

It’s a huge place. There are so many parts to it: classrooms, hallways, auditorium, a gym and fieldhouse and athletic fields, a cafeteria and 2 teaching kitchens, a library, TV studio, storage areas, boilers and HVAC systems, and who knows what else.

Well, Horace knows.

Horace Lewis, in a typical pose.

He’s spent well over a decade taking care of it all. He knows every inch of the school — probably better than anyone else, I’m sure.

He makes sure 3 shifts of staff keep all those many inches running (and gleaming). They work during the school day, during all those afternoon and evening events, and through the night when no one else is around.

When something goes wrong — and it always does — he’s the one who gets the call. Broken pipes, a bad odor, a security alarm: Horace is there.

He’s the public face of his department. If a favorite chair disappears from an office, a meeting suddenly needs a microphone, a bird flies through the hallway: Horace gets the call.

It’s a stressful job. A million things can happen in a school, and in his time as head of its staff, Horace has seen them all.

But he never stops smiling. He never stops working. He never stops serving his school, and everyone in it.

Horace Lewis (right) and shift supervisor Tom Cataudo greet the staff and students during the 2015 graduation processional.

In 2011, Cleaning and Maintenance Management ran a story called “The Custodian’s Secret Life.” In it, they quoted Horace: “The best part about the job is taking care of students and the school, making sure you guys are safe during the day.”

You’ve done that and much more, Horace. Thank you for all of it. Enjoy retirement.

And even if you’re a bit embarrassed by this: You’re our Unsung Hero of the Week.

24 responses to “Unsung Hero #154

  1. Kathie Bennewitz

    I have known Horace since he was at CMS–then he went to SHS with my daughters’ class- Not only is he someone who I always look forward to seeing –his smile and gentle laugh are infectious!–but also he has helped us coordinate needs and access with the Westport Public Art Collections. He has worked so hard and done so much for the school and community –he will be sorely missed. I wish him a wonderful next chapter!

    • Jessica Chatman

      I want to thank everyone who has taken the time to put such beautiful words about my father! He is one of a kind and is loved so much from home to the school system! We all appreciate what you do,Dad and we love you so much! Happy Retirement! Please enjoy it and relax for once LOL!Love Jess, Sant, Ri and Jo!💕

  2. Great salute to a hardworking gentleman! Enjoy your retirement, Mr Lewis!🎉

  3. Nathalie Gavrilovic

    Horace Lewis is a very special man. Few parents get to know the custodial staff, but as one of the organizers of CraftWestport I have worked closely with him to make sure the WYWL show ran smoothly. Horace was there before everybody and after everybody left. He would help the Westport Young Woman’s run their yearly fundraiser in any way he could, and always with a smile. He was there after the last person left making sure the school was in tip top shape for Monday morning classes. I wish him well in his well deserved retirement. You will be missed sir, I hope you come and see us when we are able to resume the show at Staples.

  4. Kelly Copeland

    Congratulations Horace! You are truly one of a kind and will be missed. Thank you for all you have done over the years. Wishing you the best in your well deserved retirement!!

  5. Mary Foster

    I have had the privilege and pleasure of working with Horace Lewis on a number of PTA events at CMS and SHS. Horace is a dedicated, hardworking professional, who goes above and beyond. Thank you Horace for all that you have done for our school community. You and your beaming smile will be missed! Enjoy your retirement!!

  6. Katie P. Augustyn

    Thank you, Horace, for the amazing service you have provided for our schools for many years. Congratulations and best wishes in your retirement!

  7. Very nice tribute Dan. Thank you Horace for keeping our kids safe on your watch. Have a Happy and Healthy Retirement!

  8. Marty Lisevick

    Just a great person and an even better friend! This is a huge loss for Staples HS and Westport PS. Horace has helped hundreds of teachers, students and parents along the way. All the best Horace – enjoy Plan B!!!

  9. Brandon Malin '21

    Horace is such a great person and has always been so supportive of the school community, ready to help in whatever way is needed. Any time we need something at Staples Players, whether it is a new clock in the lighting booth, getting out the Black Box seating risers for a production, or fixing one of the many problems that pop up, he is there to help. It has been wonderful working with him, congratulations!

  10. We will all miss your warm smile and “can do” attitude. Nothing was too big or too small for you to take on at Staples. Enjoy retirement, Horace!

  11. Laddie Lawrence

    If Horace Lewis were on my team he would be our All-American, Block S MVP and Scholar-Athlete selection all rolled into one incredible individual.  What he has accomplished as a behind the scenes kind of guy to keep Staples and all of our academic, athletic and artistic programs running smoothly is an awesome accomplishment. Personally, I have know Horace since he first came into the Westport School System and I will miss him greatly.  Enjoy retirement, you deserve the best. 

  12. Enia Noonan

    Dan portrayed Horace’s multi-faceted job perfectly. With those three words, “Let’s call Horace,” anything was possible. We’ll miss you, Horace! Enjoy your retirement.

  13. Nell-Ayn Lynch

    Thank you for everything Horace! Your kindness and “can do” attitude will be sorely missed. You are a rockstar!! Enjoy retirement – SHS will miss you dearly!!

  14. Jo Shields Sherman

    Horace is the best! I agree with Laddie, Horace rates the All-American MVP Scholar-Athlete award. I’ve missed the chats we’d have, and I surely appreciated how with all he had to do, he kept an eye on our kids, too. A very special man. Staples will lose a little bit of that extra gleam that was all Horace.

  15. Natalie Clay

    Horace, thank you for all you have done. It did not go unnoticed. You have accomplished so much while always keeping a cheerful smile on your face as if it was easy. It’s hard to believe you are retiring, you look like a young man! Wishing you the very best in your retirement.

  16. Susan Rubin

    There is no one better than Horace Lewis. He gets the job done – and then some! Horace and the team he leads have always supported the WPS and SHS in every way imaginable and our students, staff and parents have been the beneficiaries of that dedication. We will miss you and your smile and wish you a very happy retirement.

  17. Rebecca Mace

    Horace –
    You are a true gentle man and an amazing person. Thank you for all your help with the luncheons and our other adventures over the years. We all know who really runs that school. 🙂 Enjoy your retirement – you so deserve it.

  18. Rhonda Paul

    Horace has always gone above and beyond on the job, always with a “we can definitely do that” and a million dollar smile. I so missed running into him in school hallways and working with him during school events when my youngest moved on from CMS. By the time he moved over to the HS I had taken on a SHS part time position that required me to be in the building several days each week. I’ll never forget our happy reunion in the 4-building hallway the first time I ran into him there.

    Horace’s joyful, cheerful nature and ability to reassure and bring order and calm to chaos is unparalleled. The fact that every conversation ends with, “So, do you need anything? Is everything alright?” – even if you were just having a brief chat in passing, says it all.

    Congrats to you on your retirement, Horace! Here’s to much happiness and good health to you and yours. Thank you for your many years of incomparable service to students, staff, administrators and PTA’s!

  19. Horace will be sorely missed by all of us at the high school. Not only is he our go-to guy, as we know he can fix just about anything, but his positive attitude has a way of brightening all of our days. I will miss his friendship and his sense of humor, but wish him health, happiness and relaxation as he heads south, surrounded by family! We are so appreciative of you, and congratulations! No one deserves a restful retirement more than you!

  20. Bonnie Lewis

    Throughout my Husband Horace Lewis years of dedication and love for his job. I could not be so..proud of knowing how great of a person he is too all who have worked and came too charise his efforts. Thank you my love and I am so grateful for you. Also, thank you to all involved in Horace’s second family Westport Board of Education.


  21. Humphrey P. Wong

    I have only known Horace a few years, but he was, as Dan said, the go-to guy for so many issues that arose even during my short exposure to him. Even during the pandemic, Horace got some materials to me when the school was still closed to teachers. He was excellent and always in great spirits. Good luck to him and his family!

  22. Kerry Foley

    Horace was one of my favorite people to work with at CMS and SHS. He made all of us look so much better at our PTA and other parent volunteer jobs than we actually were. He always knew how to get things done, and brought light and positivity to every project. He will be very sorely missed! Best wishes to Horace and his family for health and happiness in his retirement.

  23. Karen Beitler

    I’ve only known Horace a couple of years but he was always there for all the many things that needed to happen to get a greenhouse, garden and classroom open, safe, and ready for students. Thank you Horace for all the “off-hours” answers, letting me in the building when I needed to take care of something and scheduling all the set ups, tables, repairs and answers to questions! All the best to you in your retirement!