Every queen needs a crown, scepter, robe and her very own royal carpet. Rosella Mason had them all, except her scepter was a toilet plunger with scrub brush and her royal carpet was a huge roll of paper towels.
Mason is the “Queen of Clean” at Apex Elementary School, and teachers gave her the tongue-in-cheek -gifts in honor of the title. She is retiring after working 20 years as the school’s head custodian.
At Mason’s retirement party Tuesday, teachers and other school staff serenaded her with their own version of the song “Let It Go” from the Disney movie “Frozen.”
“Let it go, let it go. You were the one with the broom and the brush. Let it go, let it go. We’re sad to see you go. Here you stand. Then, you’ll go away. Let the trash pile up, you can’t let it bother you anymore.”
Mason, 64, has been working for the Wake County school system for 42 years. She first helped keep Northwoods Elementary School in Cary spick-and-span before she moved to Apex Elementary.
She pulled double duty as a bus driver for about 17 years.
Before the school was renovated, Mason would often arrive by 5 a.m. after heavy storms to dry out the fifth-grade classrooms that flooded with water and sewage.
Mason said “the people and the children” made it all worth it.
“I enjoy the children because they come up and give you a hug, and it makes your day,” she said.
School principal Laurie Crissman said everyone is grateful for “Ms. Mason’s list” – a checklist of classroom needs that teachers submit to custodial staff in the fall.
“Every August when we come back, the place just sparkles,” Crissman said. “Thank you for 42 years of service to the children of Wake County. We wish you a happy retirement, and in six months if you miss us, we want you to know we have lots of volunteer opportunities.”
Mason has personal ties to Apex Elementary School. The site once housed Apex Consolidated High School, where she graduated.
Mason originally dreamed of becoming a beautician but took a job as a janitor to pay the bills after high school. She intended to stick with the gig for only a few years, but she liked it and a temporary job became a career path.
She is set to receive a community-service award from the Apex Rotary Club on Thursday. Friday is her final day on the job.
In retirement, Mason plans to spend time traveling. She wants to visit her family in Florida and see the sites at Niagara Falls.
‘Not one to sit around’
Mason may be pint-sized and quiet at first, but no one should mistake that for weakness, said Terrelle Olive, the new head custodian. Olive has been working with Mason for about three years.
She frequently operates the large floor-buffing machines, Olive said.
“She wants it done right,” he said. “She will make you do it over again. She’s not one to sit around. She’s got to be out and going.”
Olive said he will miss Mason.
“It’s like she’s another mom to me,” he said. “I can talk to her about home or school.”
Mason’s duties don’t end at school. She takes care of her father, who is more than 100 years old, and her grandchildren, said library assistant Teri Bacola.
“She’s amazing,” Bacola said. “She takes care of her grandbabies, her father, siblings and 700 kids here at Apex Elementary.”