Late custodian was 'the heart and soul' of school
April 8, 2010
SANTA ANA, CA — After emigrating from Belgium to America in 1956, Josef D''Heygers found a new job as a custodian and a home at Mater Dei High School, according to the Los Angeles Times.
According to the story, D''Heygers initially slept on a bed in an unused restroom before moving into a converted nurse''s infirmary; the school eventually built him an apartment located above the Campus Ministry Center, where he lived until his death this past weekend.
D''Heygers, who never married or had children, was called "the soul of Mater Dei High School" for his dedication as a custodian and for the close bonds he established with students, faculty and staff, the story stated.
For decades, D''Heygers'' workday began at 4:30 a.m. when he would wake up to unlock the main gate to campus and let in the bakery truck; his day ended late at night after ensuring that every light was turned off and each lock was checked, the story noted.
D''Heygers said: "Mater Dei is my family. They are so good a family, so good to me. With them, I belong. I pray a lot, but I never pray for me. I never ask for anything for me. I just say, ''Thank you.'' When I am gone, my name will remain. I will always be a member of this family. I''m very lucky."
According to the article, D''Heygers, who technically retired in the late 1990s after his doctor told him it was no longer safe to climb ladders, continued to make his daily rounds until just a few years ago.
D''Heygers donated his life''s savings to Mater Dei High School and will live on forever in the minds of those he blessed and through the Academic Service Center clock tower that bears his name, the story added.
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