Retired Custodian at Haymarket Baptist Church Preschool & Kindergarten
No matter who you ask at Haymarket Baptist Church Preschool & Kindergarten (HBCPK), each teacher or staff member will have the same answer to the question: what can you tell me about Mr. Bobby? “He’s the best,” each one will say with a smile. For 14 years, Bobby Swindall, affectionately known as Mr. Bobby to adults and children alike, took care of the little preschool in so many different ways, until he retired in March. Although his job description included the normal tasks of any janitor and custodian, Mr. Bobby went so far above and beyond that it’s hard to fit it all in one article.
A friendly face each morning, Swindall would greet the teachers with “good morning, sunshine,” or ribbing about rival sports teams, and greet the kids with a hug or a high-five. Mrs. Frasz, director of HBCPK, says that sometimes even the younger siblings of some students would cry if they didn’t get to see Mr. Bobby during dropoff and pickup times. He was an essential part of the school: a fixer of light bulbs, a catcher of groundhogs, a finder of lost diamonds, cleaner upper, repairman, groundskeeper, floor waxer, and so much more.
“He was the glue to our school,” says teacher Becky Ream, adding that everyone really, really misses him. “A celebrity” reports Tricia Wilkins. “King of the preschool,” says assistant Kristine Adams, “the keystone.” There isn’t much Swindall didn’t do for the school, but even more than that, in the hearts of the people he encountered there he was so much more than his job description would suggest. “He was our friend,” they all say.
“He would drop whatever he was doing to help someone,” says Rev. Ruth Anne Sawyer, pastor of the affiliated Haymarket Baptist Church where Swindall also served in the same role as custodian. With tears springing to her eyes, Sawyer tells how Swindall heard of a particular parishioner who was having health issues, and immediately went alone to the sanctuary to get on his knees to pray. “He is a devoted disciple of Christ, compassionate, not self-serving, and naturally empathetic,” she adds. Ministry assistant Mrs. Ann Whitney says the best way to describe Mr. Bobby is through one of his many quotes: “When I die, I wanna clean the toilets for God,” he would say. He would also say, “If I had a church, everyone would wear a robe so that no one would outshine the other.”
The relationships the teachers at the school developed with Mr. Bobby were special. “It was nice to know that when I worked late, Mr. Bobby would always be there so I felt safe,” a few of them say. When they would tell him what time they were leaving for the day, he would reply, “You don’t have to leave; I like your company.”
He also has a wonderful sense of humor. He would call out “mail boy” while walking down the hall to deliver or pick up mail to be taken to the post office. Another one-liner was, “You know I didn’t fall off the turnip truck yesterday,” as kindergarten assistant Tammy Marchand remembers.
Kindergarten teacher Kimberly Stevens says, “He always had a smile to share and never complained. He always said, ‘Life is great!’ and truly meant it. One of the most ‘half full instead of half empty’ people I have ever known, an encouraging spirit, and a great example for the rest of us for seeing the good in life and in others. I truly thank God for the years I had working with Mr. Bobby!”
His affectionate nickname for the teachers was Barbie dolls which eventually turned into “Bobby’s Dolls” and a t-shirt was created with this saying on it. Mr. Bobby wore his school shirt on every spirit day, rode on the float in the Haymarket Day parade, and attended every kindergarten graduation through the years.
The staff at HBCPK knew how good they had it, and they did their best to show Mr. Bobby their appreciation. “We spoiled him because he spoiled us,” says Mrs. Frasz, especially in December when there was a lot of glitter to vacuum up after holiday crafts. They were able to send him on a skydiving trip, which was on his bucket list, and showered him with gifts and a scrapbook of memories for his farewell celebration held at the school.
The reason Mr. Bobby decided to retire is that he just wants to go fishing. After all he gave of himself, he deserves that, and so much more. Here’s to many years of fishing, Orioles, Ravens, Caps, and Nats games, and also the quality time he will be able to spend with his wife, whom he always called “his bride.”
Mr. Bobby, you are greatly missed by those who love you and know that you are irreplaceable, not only for what you did for the school and church, but for your friendship and love.