By Aaron Orbey
At the all-school faculty luncheon early this June, Henri Andre, Rob Leith, Mark Fidler, and Lewis Bryant, among other longtime teachers, teamed up and belted out a rendition of Jimmy Dean’s “Big Bad John” as a tribute to a beloved parting member of the Upper School’s maintenance staff. This John, however, was anything but “bad”—as several members of the school’s community attest.
During his 28 years of dedicated service at the school, Custodial Supervisor John Jorge—fondly known to many as
“Big John”—has walked the halls of the Upper School, in the words of The BB&N Bulletin, as a “jack-of-all-trades” and “gardener-savant.”
“[He] was as modest and dependable as one can be. He’s been a fixture in the school for so long,” Mr. Fidler told The Bulletin. “In almost 30 years, I never heard him utter a complaint. Instead, he would always greet you with his smiling eyes. Nothing rattled him. He calmly took care of business.”
“John could work magic,” added Head Librarian Sandy Dow. “Whenever we needed anything done, he was just so kind. He just made it seem like anything you needed done, he would try to help you do.”
Librarian Stephanie Donohue recalled that at the beginning of her first year at the school, during a lonely day of office work, Big John offered her a warm welcome that she still remembers and appreciates.
“He came in, and he said, ‘Hello, I’m John.’ He just introduced himself, and then he checked in on me later that day. He was so kind…so, so kind, always kind.”
“When he’s gone, I don’t know if the building will crumble, but I do worry that no one will be able to understand our heating system as well [as he does],” Ms. Dow said.
Other members of the community also highlighted this devotion and attention to detail. Assistant Head of School for Operations Thom Greenlaw remembered that Big John would always “take the senior pranks to heart” with good humor—even the messier ones.
“He dealt with everything with quiet humility and just said, ‘Well, you know, that’s my job.’ He always worked to make the school beautiful,” Mr. Greenlaw said. “What I’m going to miss most is his dedication, knowing that the school was in very, very good hands.”
“I am very happy to have worked with him during all of his years at the Upper School,” added Noelia Santos, of Upper School maintenance. “I will miss him very much.”
According to Mr. Greenlaw, Big John’s presence has continued to resonate even as he prepares to leave. Despite the addition of another maintenance worker to the Upper School staff this fall, Mr. Greenlaw said that Big John can never truly be replaced.
As Mr. Bryant sang in the tribute song’s final verse, “There is no one to replace him ‘cause no one can. At the heart of the matter, he’s a wonderful man.”