Wilson mourns beloved custodian Byron Kelly


Photo courtesy of Elizabeth Levenson

Custodian Byron Kelly, who had been working at Wilson for three years, died Saturday, January 5. He was the night foreman of the custodial staff, but he went beyond his role as a supervisor and co-worker—for many on the custodial team, he was family.

“It felt like he was my uncle, brother, father, and cousin. He just felt like more than a supervisor,” custodian D’Angelo Jones said. Fellow custodian Jarrell Baltimore echoed these sentiments. “He cared for all of us custodians, he looked at all of us like, you know, we were brothers or nephews, or his own kids, for the young ones like myself,” Baltimore said.

Being the night foreman, only a lucky few in the building got to know him, since by the time he got to work, many staff members were leaving for the day. Clinical Psychologist Dr. Perette Arrington was one of those few. As coach of Wilson’s volleyball team, she’s had to stay late at Wilson for practices and games. During the after school hours, Arrington got to know Kelly. “He was a kind, sweet man, always had a smile on his face, always eager to help,” she said. “He was just a nice, good person and I’m sorry that a lot more people and staff in the building did not have the opportunity to get to know him.”

Kelly’s co-workers admired his intelligence. “Mr. Kelly was a smart dude,” Jones said. “You probably didn’t think he was that smart, but he was a semi-genius. He knew everything.” Custodian Bernard Cobb agreed, describing him as a “very intelligent guy.” Cobb also said he revered Kelly’s patience “for his workers, as well as other people in the building. He had great patience, and… that’s what he taught me. That’s what I got from him—having patience.” Custodian Everett Smith echoed these sentiments. “We’re going to miss Mr. Kelly,” Smith said. “He was a good supervisor, a good friend, a good person.”

Outside of Wilson, Kelly partook in various activities. One of these was playing pool. “Unfortunately I didn’t get to go with him a lot, but I heard he was doing a lot of trick shots, so that was unique,” Jones said.

Kelly’s positive guidance and good-natured attitude set him apart as a boss. Cobb emphasized this. “This was the first job that I really had that I loved my supervisor. I only knew him for four months and I loved the dude. I never loved none of my supervisors,” he said. Kelly’s admirable work-ethic was largely a result of his unyielding devotion to the Wilson community. Cobb added that Kelly always wanted to be involved in the school. “He loved the Wilson community, and would do nothing different other than serve the Wilson community.”