Janitor John Sequeira retiring after a decade as beloved custodian

March 23, 2016 — by Harshini Ramaswamy and Fiona Sequeira

After working for 10 years at the school as a night custodian primarily responsible for taking care of the Small and Large Gyms, custodian John Sequeira will retire, having turned 68 just last week.

For custodian John Sequeira, better known around campus as John the Janitor, March 31 is bittersweet. After working for 10 years at the school as a night custodian primarily responsible for taking care of the Small and Large Gyms, he will retire, having turned 68 just last week.

Sequeira, who often sports his rainbow or smiley-faced patterned suspenders, said he will miss working at what he describes as a “family school” where everybody appreciates his help.

“Everybody respects me the way I am and the way I work,” Sequeira said. “This is what I love about working here.”

During his time at the school, Sequeira has grown especially close with the basketball teams.

His shift normally started at 2 p.m., but during the basketball season he arrived on campus two hours earlier so he could finish working before the games and be there to support the team. Over time, the basketball players adopted him as their No. 1 fan.

“Because I’m working in the gym, and I love the basketball games, I started being involved with the teams,” Sequeira said. “They love me, so I do everything I can for them. The teams and the coach are really nice to me. I’m going to miss them the most — leaving them will be very tough.”

Girls’ varsity basketball coach Mike Davey said Sequeira has taken immense pride in his job from day one. 

“I’ve always known how important the role of gym manager is, and in the past, we’ve had people who didn’t really care about their job,” Davey said. “I remember him walking in the door, and you could tell he cared about the way the gym was going to look and more importantly, cared about the people in the gym. He’s going to be missed for sure.”

Senior Joe Eschen, a starter for the boys’ varsity basketball team, has been among the players to form a strong bond with Sequeira.

“John’s a really close friend of mine,” Eschen said. “This season, when I [was] shooting around in the gym, he always came in to help me out, rebounding for me and telling me what looked wrong with my shot. It was touching to know he really cared about me and wanted me to succeed in my senior year as a basketball player.”

When girls’ varsity basketball made it to the CCS championship, Sequeira was a source of unwavering support for the team.

“I felt great [for the team] because it is my last year and they make it all the way to CCS, No. 1 in CCS, it was a really good feeling,” Sequeira said.

Senior Eleni Spirakis, a member of the girls’ varsity basketball team, said Sequeira has enjoyed maintaining the gym and constantly supporting the players.

“He’d always come around and joke with us. I remember he would bring his trash picker-upper to the gym and start attacking our feet with it,” Spirakis said. “John always wanted to know how our games went, and him supporting us at the CCS championship game was pretty cool. I’m going to miss his smiling; he was always super nice and you could talk to him anytime.”

Like Spirakis, Davey also noted the janitor’s playful spirit, and the two would constantly joke around with each other in the gym. Sequeira would often sneak up behind Davey and pop the ball out his hand with a sly grin.
Eschen said he will especially miss his friend’s positivity.

“John’s made me realize the value of hard work and how you don’t need to be recognized for a lot of things you do in life,” Eschen said. “He’s taught me not to complain, not to whine when things don’t go my way, to keep my head up. If I would start pouting, he’d always tell me it wasn’t worth my time and I’d play better if I got over it.”

Davey added that Sequeira is a special person who truly cares for those around him.

“Every day we ask each other, ‘How are you doing today?’ and we actually care about how each other answers,” Davey said. “With a lot of people, you say that and then just walk by, but with John, it means something. If

I was having a bad day he’d come over and give me a hug, and I’d do the same for him.”

Sequeira has spent his last few days on campus training the custodian who will take over. As he leaves Saratoga, he’s had the opportunity to look back on his life and treasure the memories he’s made since arriving in the United States 43 years ago.

Sequeira grew up as one of 11 children working on his family’s farm on the Azores archipelago, an island cluster off of Portugal. At the age of 20, he was drafted to fight for his country in the Portuguese Colonial War in

Angola, Africa. Sequeira completed his service in 1972, and at the age of 22, his sister brought him to the United States. He soon began a job reminiscent of his childhood, milking cows on a dairy farm. Sequeira worked mostly as a landscaper over the years before becoming a janitor at SHS.

After obtaining his green card in 1974, Sequeira planned to live in the U.S. for 10 years and make enough money to return to Portugal. Meanwhile, he got married, fathered three children, and learned English. Deciding to stay in America permanently, he laid down some roots and settled in San Jose. Over the years, he also developed a love for gardening, which he uses as a way to unwind. In his free time, especially on Sundays,

Sequeira enjoys tending to the more than 230 orchids that adorn his home.

In terms of his retirement plans, Sequeira said he is most excited to relax with his family.

“I want to play with my kids, my grandkids, my great grandkids, be around the family, and enjoy life,” Sequeira said. “Next year, I plan to go to my home in Portugal for a few months.  I’m just going to visit, not go back. If I go back, I could live there like a king, but what am I going to do there if the kids are here?”

Even in retirement, Sequeira plans to continue attending home basketball games, the way he has since he began working at the school.

“I feel sad because I’m leaving this place, but I’m happy about it, because I made it, I made it to retirement,” Sequeira said.

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