The coolest person I ever met was by a long shot, my grandfather. His name is Alexander [Alex] McKean and he was a janitor at an elementary school for 47 years. He taught me the importance of consistency along with many other things. “Grampy”, as I would call him, was a kind and gentle giant. He knew everyone in his home town of Revere, Massachusetts and everyone knew him or so it seemed to me. As a young boy of 5, my parents became divorced. It was a difficult time for me, not having my Dad living with us and giving me the guidance and direction that a young boy requires in order to “figure out life”.
I used to spend summers with Grampy and he would take me to work at the Pembrook Pines Elementary school in Revere. I would help with odd chores around the school, which was of course closed for the summer except for a few “summer school” classes for those kids that had fallen behind in their studies for one reason or the other. Of course Grampy knew them all by name, both the teachers and the students. I used to wonder how he was able to remember all their names. It would amaze me how their faces would light up when he called their name one by one. All those faces and all those names.
It wasn’t until several years later that I would fully realize the impact he had had on those people.
It was the day of his funeral and as my mother and sister and I drove close to the funeral home. I remember asking my mother about the long line of people that surrounded the funeral home and extended for a block and a half. She said, you’ll see son once we get inside.
I stood amazed in the infamous “receiving line”, as what appeared to be hundreds of people in single file, walked past us, my grandmother, my mother , my sister and me. One after another recounted how much “Alex” had meant to them. Teachers, students, parents, school board members. “He always had a kind word for me” was the most common phrase I heard. Wow, what an impression he made. What a difference he had made in their life. Not only on me, but on nearly everyone he met. A janitor, at an elementary school! He was cool. I miss him to this day.