By Avery Olson, Bernadette Franulovich, and Mey Tuinei
You would think it’s the students that own these hallways even though they dream of the day they’ll be able to leave them. But the true ruler is the one and only Larry Mestas.
“Wow.. this has been my life, for the past 15-16 years.” said Mestas.
If there was a Custodian of the Decade award, it would go to Mestas… twice. He first came to Kayhi as a “temp” not knowing that in a couple months he’d be on full day shift thanks to the obvious potential he went on to fulfill. From just the basics to covering additional hands-on work, not only is maintenance going to miss a standard-excelling worker, but the high school body and staff are losing a longtime friend. He Served as not only a custodian, but also as a mentor and role model. A group of once-strangers now come to school with Larry Mestas T-Shirts to celebrate his birthdays, and now his departure.
“Kids love him, staff loves him, and it won’t be the same when he’s gone,” said Vice Principal Mike Rath. “He holds the record for the most kid friendly awards for any adult in the building. He has been a continuous and unwavering over-dedicated support presence for every kid and teacher in the building.”
Larry hasn’t failed to make an impact on students through the years. Just this past year, basketball star and motivational speaker Jesse Lebeau came back and proposed a big thanks to the janitor that never failed to motivate him to strive for his dreams. We’ll all remember Larry for different aspects and things he’s done for us going above and beyond. Being so devoted to our school and willing to put up with everyone’s shenanigans would put him in a high spot in anyone’s heart. Wheeling his motorcycle into the commons to pose for a simple reading poster only says the least of the lengths he’ll go for the interests of Kayhi.
“I’ve never heard him complain,” said office manager Lorelei Richardson. “He’s always willing and has an extraordinary personality and is always giving everyday.”
No one said the job was easy. From hard tasks to frustrating students who don’t know how to clean up after themselves, Larry has yet to lose the optimistic personality that makes him, him.
“I’ve had my dog for 12 years now, he’s grown up here. He knows this school like the back of his paws,”Mestas said. “When we walk through these doors he knows right where he goes. He’s an old dog now. We’ve both had fun here.”
Ketchikan High School is a place that stands to see the transitions of kids into adults, starts and ends of student-ran activities, and the preservation of age-old traditions. Mestas has seen all this and more. That one embarrassing time you thought no one was watching? Larry saw. That time you tripped on the stairs? Larry saw. Going down memory lane, he went on to touch on all his firsts of Kayhi: first paper toss, first cupcake war, first graduation, first visit from a graduate. He’s laid many miles on these grounds, proven by an oncoming knee surgery. 18 miles done on these tile floors became second nature for him. There’s been enough head-turning events at Kayhi to keep Larry on his toes these past generations. But his retiring doesn’t mean we’ll never see him walk the halls with his cane and good morning greetings again, you can always count on Larry.