The Humbling Story of BHS Custodian Howard Elliott
BHS custodian Howard Elliott has lived a life of many challenges and tests, but has not become a cynic as a result. Instead, he practices as he preaches the lessons he learned as a young man growing up in North Worcester, England.
Growing up with six brothers and a strict mother, Howard learned the importance of respect at a young age. Swearing was strictly forbidden and selfishness not tolerated. Howard was forced to get a job when he was only 18 to raise money for his family, but was always grateful for the little things. After applying for a job in a castle-like prison with low ceilings and an ominous feeling of death, a job in aluminum manufacturing appeared comparatively desirable. However, mistakes were not taken lightly. “If you made a mistake, you had to take responsibility and be held accountable,” said Howard. This factory primarily provided aluminum for cars and required that everything was built correctly. “There were lives at stake,” he concluded.
Howard worked this job for 27 years, in the process marrying and fathering two children. He was eventually promoted to assistant superintendent of the facility with a desirable salary — everything was looking up.
Photo by Josh Lesko.
Soon, his life would change forever. Howard divorced his wife and struggled with the pain of leaving his children. Howard found new life while working with his neighbor’s son, who suffered from dyslexia. One day, Howard called a consulting hotline in the hopes of finding answers about his young neighbor. On the list of numbers was a name called Melanie. Howard would marry Melanie not long after. She was a mental health worker from the United States, and it soon became time for her to leave England and return home. Howard was torn between the choice of leaving his kids and his job or following the love of his life to America. Leaving came at a great cost, as the accomplished worker left behind the equivalent of $45,000 and his children resenting him. “I was worried what they would think of me at the time,” said Howard, “- but I still have a mortgage on that house and now (my kids) realize that sacrifice. We have a great relationship now.”
Howard found his experience in the aluminum industry less-than advantageous in America. His wife worked at Bainbridge High School providing mental health resources for students, and he soon adapted to life as a custodian at the same school.
As a result of his past, Howard has enjoyed the little things in life and doesn’t feel underappreciated. He values his interaction with fellow staff and students while keeping the school functioning, working behind the scenes to maximize the efficiency of the classroom environment and keeping students safe.
When he isn’t working, Howard takes care of Melanie, who survived open heart surgery in 2015 and was forced to retire for similar health reasons. He dedicates hours ensuring medications are taken and Melanie remains healthy. Still, Howard goes about his day with a jolly laugh and a toothy grin, allowing his past to dictate his future in only a positive manner. “No one wants to hear about our problems,” he said. He lives by that notion, putting worries aside in the pursuit of helping others, as he does so effortlessly on the BHS campus.