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77-year-old school janitor gets a big surprise from students and staff

Birthday parties are a staple celebration – something that we think everyone has had at least once in their lives. But for Frances Buzzard, a janitor at Belle Elementary School in West Virginia, that was not the case.

When the school hired Miss Frances – as she is known by staff and students – as a janitor, they expected that she would just be an ordinary custodian, but she proved them wrong. The senior had an exceptional work ethic and went above and beyond her regular work duties.

Belle Elementary school principal, Amanda Mays


School counselor Chelena McCoy told the Charleston Gazette-Mail that one day, Miss Frances came into her office and asked her if it was a good time to do some polishing. Puzzled at her question, she said, “Polish? Polish what?”. Miss Frances replied, “Well, the desk and office furniture and stuff.”

“I’m, like, ‘Well, that’s not your job, Miss Frances.’ She said, ‘Oh, yes! That’s our job.’ And I’m thinking, ‘You know, I’ve worked in this school forever, and nobody ever said anything about polishing.

So, this lady is twice our age, but she does three times the work. She’s something else. Everybody just loves her. You can’t get her to stop.”, Chelena shared.

This admirable trait coupled with her sweet and lovable personality earned her the respect and affection of the school staff and students.

An important event in her life was approaching, as Miss Frances was about to celebrate her 77th birthday. But as it turns out, she’s never experienced a birthday party in her entire life.

Frances Buzzard


The school principal, Amanda Mays, learned of this rather sad truth from their head cook who had spoken with Miss Frances. Upon finding out, Amanda decided right then that she should do something to change that. Amanda and the rest of the staff planned to throw Miss Frances her first ever birthday party.

In preparation for the surprise, students gathered in the cafeteria for what Miss Frances thought was a general assembly. As she was walking along the school corridor, she was confused as she heard her name being announced over the PA system. She was being called to report to the cafeteria along with a fellow custodian, Rendell Heater. Miss Frances probably thought that they needed her to mop something off the floor.

Belle Elementary School students sitting on the floor of the cafeteria


However, when she opened the doors to the cafeteria, she was greeted with a deafening “Surprise!” by over 200 children and the rest of the school staff. There was a huge yellow banner at the front with the words “Happy Birthday Ms. Frances” sprawled across it, along with what appeared to be names of the students that they wrote themselves.

A banner bearing the words "Happy Birthday Miss Frances"


Speaking into the microphone, Amanda invited her into the cafeteria saying:

“Surprise! Happy birthday, Ms. Frances. We know it’s next week but you won’t be here. So, we’re celebrating today. Come on in!”

Miss Frances, with a wide grin on her face, entered the cafeteria while one of the staff draped her with a “Happy Birthday” sash and perched a tiara on her head bearing the same message. She was then directed to sit on a leather chair positioned in the center of the room, fit for a special person who is celebrating a momentous event.

Miss Frances with her tiara and sash, sitting on a leather chair in the center of the cafeteria


Surrounded by the school children, the curtains in front of the room suddenly parted and a video began to play. The film showed altered photographs of historic events from the decades of Miss Frances’ life. There, she was seen with John F. Kennedy, on the moon beside Neil Armstrong, and even at a concert in Woodstock!

Miss Frances on an altered photograph with Neil Armstrong


After the short clip, cupcakes that had been ordered for this special day were rolled out and Miss Frances blew out her birthday candle.

Looking all excited, Miss Frances said: “I never had nothin’ like this.”

When asked by the Charleston Gazette-Mail reporter if she never had a birthday party before, Miss Frances responded: “I don’t think so. I mean, they had me one. But it was so icy and cold, nobody came!”

Frances Buzzard blowing out her birthday candle

Source: YouTube

But things have already changed. Miss Frances got to celebrate her birthday party and it was the exact opposite of the “icy and cold” one that she had before. It was filled with warmth and love from the people who genuinely cared about her.

“Oh, it’s a great, big party. I appreciate it! I’ve never had nobody do this for me.”, she said.

Frances Buzzard wiping away her tears


What a wonderful initiative from the principal and staff! As an elementary school, this is a great way to demonstrate to the children the importance of caring for one another and the value of making other people feel special, which is exactly what they did for Miss Frances.

See the whole school celebrate with Miss Frances as she turns 77 years old in the video below.

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