Students surprise custodian with 80th birthday celebration

Haze Mabry has been part of the Pike County Elementary School for the past 13 years. Last week the students he looks after helped make his 80th birthday one he’ll remember.

He hadn't planned for much for his milestone birthday on March 27, The Washington Post reported.

The more than 750 students, teachers and staff members cheered "Mr. Haze," the nickname they use, on as he walked through the hallways of his school. With the cheers came cards and hugs from many of the students, CNN reported.

>> Read more trending news

Students and teachers had been working on the surprise for the past few weeks, but they had challenges since Mabry is always around, working from 6:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m.

Lori Gilreath, a reading teacher at the school, said Mabry feels to her like he’s part of her family, after working together for the past decade.

"He's just very caring. He's just so much more than just a staff member. He doesn't know how special he is," Gilreath told CNN.

Gilreath’s classroom was the command center as they wrapped up creating the celebration.

Once Mabry left for the day, work got started on decorating the school, creating a birthday throne and lining the walls of the school with photos, all with the theme "80 years loved, 80 years blessed," CNN reported.

The students listed 80 reasons why they love him, reasons like taking time to hug them, or give them a pat on the back when they need it..

>> Need something to lift your spirits? Read more uplifting news

Mabry, who was the first person at the school last Wednesday, got the surprise when he turned on the lights, then got to work preparing the building for classes. When Gilreath got to the school, Mabry was hard at work vacuuming, according to CNN.

That all changed when the kids started arriving and the day turned from education to celebration.

And you’d think at the age of 80 he’d be looking at retiring, but nope, Mabry is in it for as long as he can be.

"As long as I'm able to work, I think I'll work," he told CNN.

As for his kids, "They're like my children. I'm like the old lady in the shoe," Mabry told The Washington Post.

About the Author