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Loved custodian retires after 20 years at Tucson primary school

Posted at 2:20 PM, May 21, 2019
and last updated 2019-05-21 18:01:42-04

TUCSON, Ariz. -- The students at Johnson Primary School in West Tucson are called the Rainbowmakers.

Their motto is "Welcome friends to the other side of the rainbow."

One staff member has been adding color to the halls of the school for nearly 20 years.

David Howard is the school custodian, but he's not only known for keeping Johnson Primary clean.

The kids at Johnson know David as Mario - as in Mario and Luigi.

For the past 10 years, David has been dressing up as the popular Nintendo character to surprise the students at Johnson.

"I dress up as Mario because they relate to Mario," David said.

He said the overalls and bright red hat are a fun surprise for the kids, but he also uses the costume as a tool to encourage good attendance among the students.

"If they would come to school - come to class, and they would behave maybe I might send Mario," David said.

On May 17th, David dressed up as Mario for the last time at Johnson Primary.

Principal Rose Cota worked with David's family and friends to organize a huge send off that involved students, staff, and friends.

The students came out of their classrooms and clapped for David as he walked down the halls giving them high fives the whole way.

Teachers helped their classes makes signs for him and music played over the loud speaker in the hallways.

"The teachers here are tremendous, very positive," David said. "I'm going to miss them."

Principal Cota read a letter to David from the staff and students thanking him for his service to Johnson Primary.

Some students scrambled to say goodbye to Mario.

One young student was crying as she left early because she thought she wouldn't get to see Mario one last time.

She did.

After the "clap out," family and friends gathered in a classroom to celebrate David with food and, of course, a Mario Kart cake.