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KENSINGTON, P.E.I. - On a particularly windy day, as student Abby Christopher sat in her biology class, the school sign blew off its base and lodged in a tree.
She and her fellow Kensington Intermediate Senior High school classmates watched through the window as Grant MacDonald, a school custodian, ran out into the storm, clambered up the tree and wrestled against the wind to secure the sign, before it set sail for the mainland.
“We were all like, ‘Go Grant! Go Grant! Go Grant!',” she said.
In the future, when she thinks about MacDonald, that’s how she’ll remember him – putting in maximum effort for his school, with a smile on his face.
MacDonald, 64, died Nov. 23 after a short illness.
He had worked as a custodian at KISH since 2003, but had been on medical leave prior to September.
He was laid to rest Nov. 27. Many remarked it was the largest funeral turnout they had ever witnessed at St. Paul’s Church in Summerside. KISH canceled classes so students and staff could attend the ceremony.
MacDonald’s wife, Darlene, said it meant a great deal to her family to see so many students and co-workers, past and present, in attendance.
“I was so thankful. I thanked each and every one of them,” said Darlene.
“I told them, ‘Grant loved you and he’d be so proud that each and every one of you showed up here today.’”
Her husband took a lot of pride in his work, she said.
“He loved the school, he loved the kids, he loved his work, he loved all the staff. When he was sick, he’d say ‘I wish I could just get up and go to work today,’” she said.
Staff and students who spoke with the Journal Pioneer about MacDonald all noted his dedication to his work and his smiling, easy going nature.
KISH teacher Richard Younker’s classroom was adjacent to MacDonald’s office, so the men chatted often. Younker is also involved with school sports and extra-curricular activities and MacDonald was always helping to set up or tear down, whatever they needed him to.
“He was such a happy fella,” said Younker. “Which is why I think he was so well liked by everyone in the building. Not just the other custodial staff, but the teaching staff, the students. You saw Grant in the hallways and you could always go up and talk to him. He always had a smile. He was such a positive person it was hard not to like the guy.”
Caleb McKenna is on the school's student council, so he had lots of opportunities to work with MacDonald on assemblies and other activities.
“I got to know him by bothering him for a lot of stuff,” said McKenna.
No matter how big the mess or the job, MacDonald always seemed happy to help in whatever way he could.
“Or if we just wanted to talk to him, he was always there. He was always smiling.”
“He was always so kind,” added Callie Champion, another student councillor.
KISH won’t be the same school without MacDonald, said Younker.
“He was such a big part of the school. It’s going to be different here, it’s not going to be the same.”
Preliminary plans are underway to honour MacDonald in some way at KISH, though details are still being determined.