Shrewsbury – With the end of the recent school year came the end of a decades-long career in the Shrewsbury school system. In June, longtime and beloved custodian Robert LeDoux hung up his tools for the final time. The popular Coolidge School employee has been working there for 39 years. He has been with the school system for 44 years in total.
“He's kind of like a patriarch at the school,” said Kelly Finneran, a fourth-grade teacher at Coolidge who has worked with LeDoux for 25 years. “He not only worked at the school, he went there himself as a boy. He knows every brick in the building.”
Finneran, said LeDoux, is more than just a custodian for the staff and students at Coolidge – he's a teacher and trusted figure everyone counts on. Finneran said she meets students who have long since left the school and many ask “Is Mr. LeDoux still there?”
“He goes beyond the call of duty and does the extras others wouldn's do,” Finneran said.
Like trapping escaped hamsters. Finneran recalled a year when the class pet escaped and managed to elude capture for weeks. LeDoux, according to Finneran, went in the school one night and set up a trap and managed to outwit the creature.
“I came in the next day and there was a little flag on top of the box,” she said. “It was if he was saying “We got him to surrender.””
Teacher's aide Ann Monopli said Coolidge school is like a family, and losing LeDoux will be like losing a member of their close-knit clan.
“He's sincere – he cares about the kids,” she said. “If someone does something wrong, he always makes sure they learn from it. He's not harsh or mean.”
LeDoux himself said it has been a bit difficult these last few weeks as he has considered that his time as the school's custodian is ending. He plans to volunteer a few days a week to keep himself involved in the school. He also plans to spend more time with his hobbies, such as fishing, in retirement.
LeDoux said he has seen a lot change in four decades at Coolidge, from the building itself, which underwent major renovations over the years, to the demands of teaching, which has become a job that now requires much more than eight hours a day.
“I see teachers coming in at 7 a.m. and earlier with me now,” he said. “There are longer hours, more demands.”
LeDoux said that over the years he has tried to make children smile, and turn bad days around for students who seem down and thinks his efforts have meant a positive experience for many of the children.
“I’ve had a lot of great moments just joking with the kids,” he said. “I had one child's father come up to me and tell me ‘You’ve made a impact on my son's life, and on the whole family as well.'”