School caretaker retires today to return to the Azores
Tony Sousa has been the first to open the gates and the man who closed up at Warwick Academy for the last 15 years.
But today the 60-year-old caretaker will padlock the school grounds for the last time before he leaves Bermuda to retire and join his family in the Azores.
Mr Sousa said: “I have loved every moment. This school, the teachers and the children have been like a family for me.
“Leaving is a bittersweet feeling because I will miss the children’s smiles and being part of something very special, but I’m looking forward to spending more time with my family.”
He added: “I haven’t packed my bag yet because I still can’t believe I am leaving.
“I know my last day will be emotional and if it was not for my health, I believe I would be here for longer.”
Mr Sousa was born in the Azores and started work stacking shelves in San Miguel at the age of 12 to help provide for his six brothers and sisters.
He spent three years in the army and later worked as a truck driver for more than a decade to support his wife, Maria, and his three children, Lazaro, Helio and Patricia.
Mr Sousa travelled to Bermuda on his own in 2006 and started work as a cleaner at Warwick Academy.
He said: “Those first few weeks in Bermuda were difficult. I missed my family and I really was not sure I was going to stay.
“But my friends persuaded me to keep with it and I am really happy that I took their advice.”
Mr Sousa added he had seen a lot of changes at the school over the years.
He said: “There are new buildings around the campus now and a lot of more computers these days.
“But I think the children have become more talkative. Now they know who I am and call my name in the corridors.
“It’s a really special feeling when they smile and say good morning, and I know I will miss it a lot.”
Mr Sousa added: “I don’t speak much English, so I have always whistled while I work.
“It’s my way of communicating with the staff and the pupils and showing them that I love what I do.”
Mr Sousa got up at 5am every day and was in school by 6am, cleaning the corridors and getting the school ready for the arrival of pupils and staff.
He was also one of the last to leave and headed home at 8pm on a typical day.
He even worked on a Sunday – even though he did not have to.
Dave Horan, the school principal, said: “Tony is such an important part of the school. He works all hours and every day, and it’s impossible to measure his impact and contribution to the school community.
“The kids love Tony, and he is always happy to help at any time, whether it’s opening the school at the weekend for a pupil who has forgotten his bag or a teacher who has forgotten their key.
“He’s going to be a big miss – it will be strange not to hear him whistling away and welcoming everyone in the morning.
“We can’t thank him enough for his devotion to the school over the last 14 years.”
Mr Sousa will head back to the Azores tomorrow but said he hoped to return to Bermuda next year to visit his son and his family, who live on the island.