By JOHN HOWELL It's been more than a year since most Cedar Hill students and faculty have seen Paul Gallo, the man they could count on to keep the school and its grounds clean. He's also the man they could count on to "moo" a hello. That's right, moo
It’s been more than a year since most Cedar Hill students and faculty have seen Paul Gallo, the man they could count on to keep the school and its grounds clean. He’s also the man they could count on to “moo” a hello. That’s right, moo like a cow.
Paul can’t explain it. He has loved cows ever since he was a kid growing up across from the Greene Farm on Potowomut Road. He has cows tattooed on his arms and the cow theme is part of his home in Potowomut. He has a cow mailbox.
As much as he cares for cows, Paul has always loved kids, and that’s what he has missed since an accident on July 25, 2019, when an elderly woman unfamiliar with the Apponaug circulator hit him. Paul, who was riding his new motorcycle sustained multiple injuries, the most serious being a “crushed skull.”
“She went through a yield sign … I don’t remember anything after that,” Paul said Sunday.
Fortunately for Paul, Jon Shapiro was on his way to work at Kent Hospital. He saw the accident and was on the scene immediately. Paul credits Jon with saving his life, as he hit the pavement headfirst and blood was gushing from his mouth. For months, Paul was virtually bed-bound. Today, he can get around with a cane. His mouth has gaps where he lost nine teeth. His cognitive skills are occasionally impaired, says his wife, Sandy.
He showed no signs of that Sunday afternoon as a fire truck leading a parade of cars with horns blaring and kids waving and shouting drove by his home. In was a surprise parade for Paul, although Jennifer Carlson, PTO vice president and a Cedar Hill mom who planned the event had given Sandy a head up. This was a retirement parade for the custodian the school loves.
Carlson got out the word for parents to assemble at the Potowomut fire station just around the corner from Paul’s for the parade to start at 3 p.m. With cars pulling into the parking lot at the station, Carlson wondered if the firefighters might join in. She went up to the front door of the station and after a few calls and pressing a buzzer, four fighters appeared. She explained what she had planned and without a pause, they signed up.
“When?” inquired one of the group.
“3 o’clock,” Carson replied.
“That’s in four minutes,” one firefighter said, looking quickly at his watch.
With lights flashing and siren sounding, the fire truck led the troupe down the short dead end before rounding and returning to the station. Those in the parade parked. Kids carrying placards and cards got out to assemble on Paul’s lawn. He mooed several times to everyone’s amusement. He told them how much he missed them and the school.
Carlson presented him with a circular sign with the dates of his service as a school custodian – 1993 to 2020 – and, naturally, with a drawing of a cow.
Carlson was a sixth-grader when Paul started at the school.
“I don’t think it was ever just a job for him,” she said. “He always took pride in his work and the school and he loved the kids. A school is only as good as the people working in it, and the dedication Paul showed was part of what makes Cedar Hill School a great school.”
Paul regrets the abrupt end to his career. He had his hopes set on becoming the lead custodian at Toll Gate High or Winman Middle School.
“I loved going to work,” he said. “I’m not going to say I loved the work. It was the people.” Without hesitation, he named Steve Kirby as the principal he most enjoyed working with.
With the parade over and kids and parents returning to their cars, Paul reminisced about his days keeping Cedar Hill School clean and the many people he came to know. He’s feeling better. He’s getting around.
“I’m trying my hardest,” he said.
On Sunday, he learned there are a lot of people rooting for him, although he’s retired now.