‘He took an interest’: School pays tribute after custodian dies suddenly

Friends, family and co-workers are remembering a man who dedicated the last two decades of his life to students at York Comprehensive High School.

Al Palmer, 71, died Tuesday morning while at the school.

He had walked the halls of York Comprehensive High for the past 20 years, and his death shocked students, staff and his family.

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Palmer was one of the lead custodians at the school, and Teddy Childers was his right-hand man.

“He’d always say I was the chihuahua, and I’d tell him he was a bulldog,” Childers told Channel 9.

Childers said he has noticed a difference among students these past couple of days.

“It’s very quiet in the halls, because they got a lot of respect for Mr. Al,” Childers said.

On Tuesday, Palmer went to work early around 5 a.m., which was typical. He took a break and was reading a book in the library, which was where a staff member found his body.

The family is waiting on autopsy results to get a cause of death.

“We’re a school family,” said Caylen Whitesides, a media specialist at the school. “But he’s part of your family because he took an interest.”

Whitesides worked closely with Palmer for the past 13 years.

Her children attended the school and knew Palmer.

“My children have been through here, nieces and nephews,” she said. “He wants to know everybody’s name and he’s going come in and ask how is so-and-so.”

Many students and friends have left tributes on social media. Childers and other members of the janitorial staff regret that Palmer didn’t get to enjoy his retirement. However, they also know there was no place he loved more than York Comprehensive High.

“I think he went the way, if he could have planned it, he would have wanted to be here,” Whitesides said. I don’t think he would have had it any other way.”

Al Palmer’s niece said her uncle’s death was devastating.

“A really devastating loss for everybody,” Olivia Palmer said. “He came from nothing and everything he’s ever had, he’s worked hard for. So it’s just resilience and he taught me that.”

The school has counseling services available for students.

An autopsy will be done on Palmer’s body because he died on school property. It appeared he died of natural causes.

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