Norm Frederickson, M.W. Savage Elementary’s dependable and beloved custodian since 1986, clocked out of work for the last time this month.
His retirement at 83 was cause for celebration Jan. 3. as students, staff and retirees gathered for his retirement party. Frederickson said he’ll miss working with the kids and staff members the most.
“Norm is nice to everyone he meets,” said M.W. Savage retiree Bev Leonard.
Frederickson’s last day marked the end of an era for a community also facing the school’s closure later this year due to district budget cuts.
During his retirement party, many shared how Frederickson kept the school and grounds in tip-top shape every day of his career. Several said the school’s gleaming floors and his beaming smile became a constant sight for students and staff.
“Norm Frederickson, simply put, is the most famous and most popular person ever to walk the halls of Marion W. Savage Elementary since its inception in 1951 as the first school in ISD 191,” former Principal Jeremy Willey wrote in a 2012 letter nominating Frederickson for the district’s John Coskran Award for volunteerism.
Frederickson’s wife of 58 years, Carol, said he learned to like working with his hands growing up on a farm in New Market. After they married, he spent years making glass bottles for Brockway Glass Co. before they heard through the grapevine about a job opening at the school.
Tom Stephes, the district’s former custodial supervisor, said some days on the job were harder than others. One time, Frederickson became stuck in the school’s two-foot-square underground tunnel system when his belt loop hooked onto something, and he couldn’t move forward or backwards.
Stephes said Frederickson was only mad because the ordeal ruined a good pair of pants.
“He’s a good farmer,” Stephes laughed.
Former Principal Ron Cin said Frederickson went above and beyond to help when 80-mph winds and golfball-sized hail suddenly struck the school one afternoon.
Frederickson had already driven home, Cin recalled, but he returned and worked late into the evening to help cover the broken windows with plastic and plywood.
Cin said he could always count on his dedication and strong work ethic.
Frederickson also carried a reputation for learning things quickly.
Chuck Robasse, a current night custodian at M.W. Savage, said Frederickson mentored him and showed him the mechanical ropes.
Robasse said Frederickson “never missed a day” and joked he’ll still be worried about the school in his retirement.
But it’s Frederickson’s friendly manner and positive attitude that many said left the biggest impact on the school community.
“He’s so beloved,” said Pat Byrne, who worked at the school for 25 years. “He’s just the most dependable, kind, thoughtful man that we’ve had the pleasure of working with, and that’s why we love him so much.”