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The City Journals

Crestview Elementary School Honors Custodian with New Bench

Oct 07, 2015 02:25PM ● By Bryan Scott

From left to right: Maxine Anderson, Steve’s mom; Verneita Hunt, assistant director of human resources and former Crestview Elementary principal; Linette, Steve’s sister and caregiver; Heidi Jones, teacher. Photo courtesy of Heidi Jones

By Lauren Casper

Steve Anderson was the head custodian at Crestview Elementary School for eight years. In January 2015, Steve passed away from idiopathic interstitial pulmonary fibrosis, a fatal lung disease. To honor his memory, Crestview school and community members donated money and installed a bench in front of the school. On Sept. 2, the bench was dedicated. Members from Steve’s family, community members, and the entire student body were present at the dedication.

Kelly Kline, a teacher at Crestview and good friend of Anderson’s, spoke at the dedication. In addition to speaking about Anderson, “Mr. Steve” as he was known to the students, Kline instructed the students about a rule that came with the bench. 

“When you are on this bench, you must act as if Mr. Steve was sitting right beside you.  So, you can’t sit and fight with your brother while you wait for your mom to pick you up on this bench.  You can’t say mean things about your friends who left you out earlier in the day while you sit on this bench.  Would you do that if Mr. Steve were sitting here?  No way!” Kline said. 

The bench was purchased from Sonntag Recreation, LLC.  Chris and Tami Sonntag’s children attended Crestview several years ago, and they were generous in allowing the school to purchase and install the beautiful new bench within their budget.

Anderson was a unique and special custodian. He was more than just the man who kept Crestview clean. Teachers appreciated the care he gave to each of their requests, and students appreciated that he knew their names, played with and teased them, and genuinely cared about them.

“Steve taught the children through his example that you can work hard at something and still enjoy what you are doing.  I think he taught the children that people are more important than things.  I also think he tried to teach them respect for the property of others and to appreciate what is done for them.  He taught the teachers to enjoy the students a little more.  Some days can be difficult, but if you come back the next day with a good attitude, things will improve.  Steve also taught us determination.  He came to work as long as he possibly could; he didn’t want to let any of us down.  We were really quite spoiled by his service to us,” Kline said.

Heidi Jones, another teacher at Crestview, was also a good friend of Anderson’s. Jones’ son worked as a sweeper for Anderson while he was in high school. 

“Steve mentored dozens of teenage boys over the years, teaching them the value of hard work, honesty and integrity. He required the boys to maintain good grades and pestered them to follow through on tough things like Eagle projects, which thrilled every boy’s mother. My son John worked for Steve during his three years in high school. When John had disappointments, like every high school kid, he always knew he had a place to go every day where he felt valued, needed, appreciated and understood. That’s how he felt about working for Steve,” Jones said.

The decision to honor Anderson and his legacy was an important one to Crestview. “We had a committee that worked on a lasting memorial for Steve.  A tree only lasts until they redo the grounds or vandals choose to run over it during the night.  We have lost other trees that way.  We wanted to make sure that Steve’s legacy of friendship, example, and hard work would never be forgotten.  Steve knew there would be donations.  He also wanted something lasting that would benefit the community,” Kline said.

The new bench will be a reminder to students, parents and teachers of Anderson and the person, employee and friend that he was.