At 90, school custodian not the retiring type
WILMINGTON, Del. — Almost every day for almost 25 years, Sam Singleton has shown up for work.
That's not extraordinary for school custodians across Delaware who quietly maintain places that are clean and safe for kids.
But there is something special about Singleton's near-quarter-century of working at Downes Elementary School in Newark. He started the job at an age when most people are retiring.
This Sunday, he will turn 90. And school staff say he's as reliable as ever.
It took a little coaxing to lure Singleton out of his work for a moment to visit the school library on Tuesday afternoon. But when he opened the door, work-gloves in hand, he was greeted by cheering teachers, a birthday cake, and a giant gift bag full of letters from students.
There are some signs of Singleton's age. His voice, for example, is hoarse from a previous career as a coal miner.
But even though his hands are weathered by almost a century of labor, he's still got a granite handshake. He can still bend to pick things off the floor “or to bend a wrinkled, smiling face to a 6-year-old” just fine. And he still knows the bones of the school better than anybody.
“Every day I'm going to him to ask where something is or how the best way to do something is. He knows every inch of this place up and down,” said chief custodian Tim Norris. “And I'm telling you, he can work harder and longer than most 16-year-olds I know.”
Charles Haywood is the former principal at Downes and was Singleton's boss for 16 years. He remembers watching a man well past retirement age drill holes through concrete and strip paint.
In all that time, Haywood can remember only one time when Singleton had to take a break.
“He was out early in the dark shoveling snow when he fell and broke his hip,” Haywood said. “But if you thought that was going to keep him down for long, well, you just don't know Sam. He's got just an incredible work ethic. He works circles around people half his age.”
That, Singleton says, is the key to his longevity. After retiring from jobs like mining and building, he wanted to keep doing something with his hands, something that would keep him moving, keep him sweating.
“You see people who are retiring while they're only in their 60s or their 70s, and they just stop being active,” Singleton said. “I don't think I could do that.”
And, for now, the beloved custodian doesn't see that changing.
“I don't know why I would stop,” he said. “I just like doing it.”
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Supreme Court justices ream EPA for ignoring costs to meet air standards
- Snappers treat revitalizes Lawrenceville’s Edward Marc Brands chocolatier
- Heinz executives to dominate post-merger management of Kraft Heinz Co.
- Bank of New York Mellon seeks to intervene in N.J. casino saga as power plant taps collateral
- Drillers to submit electronic records on fracking chemicals to Pa. DEP
- Pending home sales in U.S. climb to 9-year high
- Greece makes stocks slip to worst day of year
- Teen retailer American Eagle Outfitters goes mobile, revamps site
- Innovative desk makers take stand against sitting at work
- University mine rescue teams join to set rules, competitions
- Big Heart Pet Brands to leave Pittsburgh, affecting 225 jobs