CLEARFIELD -- Joseph Francis was at Wasatch Elementary School at 6:30 a.m. Friday to set up for graduation ceremonies. It was the last day of school, and the students and teachers were getting ready for summer vacation.
But not Francis, who as head custodian was at work early Monday morning along with his part-time help to begin the task of cleaning the school for the new school year in the fall.
Francis was recently presented an award from the Davis Education Professionals Association for being an Outstanding Classified Professional in his role as head custodian. And today, he will be recognized at a Davis School Board meeting for his exemplary service.
He also will soon be featured in a national production encouraging schools to serve breakfast in the classroom.
"I have been here for about seven years," said Francis, who will be 70 years old in December. "I will either die here or retire from here."
"I've been in a lot of schools," said Wasatch Principal Janet Sumner, who has worked with many custodians. "He is amazing. He does everything in a pleasant way. Kids absolutely love him. They call him Mr. Joe."
Francis loves those he works with and said, "I believe in customer service. I believe my job here is to make things happen and to keep everyone happy. I am not here to serve me, I am here to serve customers."
And Francis' customers are the children, teachers, secretaries, parents and public.
Francis doesn't know why he was singled out for awards, because he feels other custodians in the district are just as good as he is.
"It flabbergasts me. I never thought I'd get this kind of attention, ever," Francis said. "I can't say I did any better than anyone else."
But he does admit a happy, cheerful attitude goes a long way, and he immediately takes care of things that come up. He likes to have fun and make things fun for others, so he never complains.
Francis' talent of working pleasantly with people was discovered by a lady from the National Education Association when she visited a conference in Park City, where Francis was a speaker.
"I like to have fun even at the podium. I was just me being funny," Francis said.
But it was that talk, which he gave on students eating breakfast in the classroom, that got her attention. Now the NEA is promoting breakfast in the classroom nationwide. The NEA is making a CD on breakfast in the classroom and invited Francis to travel to Washington, D.C., to be part of the production of the promotional movie. Francis will travel to Washington in July to talk about his experience at Wasatch.
"It's all about nutrition and custodial work. The intent is to convince everyone that breakfast in the classroom is good," Francis said.
At first Francis wasn't thrilled with the idea of having to clean spilled milk out of carpets and gather food from classrooms, but he takes everything in stride.
Invariably a student will spill milk on the carpet, said Francis. But, he has a portable extractor to dilute and vacuum the spills.
"I believe a student works better if his tummy is full," Francis said. "They (UEA) heard I solved a problem and want the rest of America to know they can do it."
Francis worked in retail management for both J.C. Penney and the Cache Valley Mall before a reduction in management meant he was laid off. While searching for another job, he took a part-time job as a custodian and soon became a head custodian.
"I learned a long time ago to bloom where you're planted," he said.
School secretary Kari Demtrak speaks fondly of Francis.
"He is such a hard worker and has such good ethics -- he is a great man," Demtrak said. "He is my right-hand man. If there is anything I need, he is there immediately. I never lift a box."
Kitchen worker Elizabeth Echavarria added, "He is our hero."
Francis, a Syracuse resident, has a wife, four children and 20 grandchildren.