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Draper Journal

Being surrounded by teenagers helps keep 80-year-old Corner Canyon custodian moving

May 08, 2019 03:33PM ● By Julie Slama

Corner Canyon High School custodian Jerry Kimball got a surprise when faculty, staff and students presented him a cake with 80 candles to celebrate his birthday. (Photo courtesy of Lesia Patterson/Corner Canyon High)

By Julie Slama | [email protected]

When Jerry Kimball went into the commons outside Corner Canyon High School office on March 25, the custodian was shocked.

He saw hundreds of students gathered around and administrators orchestrating the demonstration — a demonstration complete with a happy birthday banner and a cake with 80 candles for him.

“I was kind of surprised by it all,” Kimball said. “I was told to go to administration, which wasn’t normal. Then I saw the cake, and it sunk in what was going on. I was completely blindsided, but it was very nice that they put this on for my 80th birthday.”

Kimball was given a birthday crown, was covered with leis and six or seven students held up a banner that was signed by students and staff alike, Corner Canyon Assistant Principal Marsha Morgan said.

“He’s special to us so we wanted to do something special for him,” she said.

It came about as his immediate supervisor Sara Cook was invited by Kimball’s wife to a family and friends gathering in honor of his birthday. She knew the school would be on board to celebrate the big day.

“In my 24 years working with the (Canyons and Jordan School) District, I never worked with an employee who turned 80,” Cook said. “He is always here, always wanting to tell a joke, always happy, wanting to support students and everything that is going on here. He’s been here since Corner Canyon opened so everyone knows Jerry.”

Kimball, who has his master’s degree in economics from Brigham Young University, already retired from working at Metropolitan Water District. 

However, with eight children “who all have needs” and “still have bills to pay,” he reentered the work force, first donning a pair of football cleats he purchased from Deseret Industries so he could do landscaping on the hills of Salt Lake School District schools.

Since then, he has worked maintenance at the downtown Hilton, worked fixing computers in a call center and still does double shifts working a second job in security at a recycling and scrap metal company.

Kimball, who can remember getting his first new car, a Monte Carlo for $4,400 and filling it with gas at 70 cents per gallon, said being around teenagers helps keep him young.

“This helps me. I’m here to help them, but it keeps me moving — although I’m not as fast as they are and I can’t jump the stairs like they can — but it’s good for my health. I’ve had a heart attack in 2014 and replaced both my knees, but I’m able to have the school clean and ready for them,” he said.

Cook jokes that Kimball isn’t 80, but rather “40 twice; he has more energy and is younger than his actual number.”

While Kimball can run the scrub machine to clean the tile floors, he jokes that his favorite part of the job is lunchtime — probably just as he would have answered when he was a student, he said.

Cook said once when she rotated the custodial staff, a woodworking teacher was upset.

“The teacher wanted Jerry back. He appreciated him and not just because Jerry understood what was needed in the area. The drama teacher here loves him, even gave him a huge hug. People love Jerry as a person, not just as a custodian,” she said.

Kimball’s Corner Canyon birthday bash included pizza, drinks — including his favorite, Mountain Dew — and a bucket filled with snacks and a movie gift card to use if he can find any down time.

“Everything was so great and the kids sang happy birthday around me,” he said. “Eighty is a good, respectful number.”