Almost every morning on my way to work, I drive past Joseph on his daily walk. As he marches the sidewalk into Holderness, his pace is brisk, filled with purpose and positive energy. Dressed for the weather, he often sports some sort of Holderness paraphernalia. Lately, it’s been a trucker hat, a recent fashion accessory I wish I could say would look as good on me as it does on him—the Holderness blue rim lending a crisp accent to his exercise gear.
I also often have the privilege of eating lunch with Joseph and standing on the sidelines with him during games on the Upper Fields. With his knowledge of town news, I am always certain to learn something—events at the Pemi Fish and Game, the dates of the local parades, updates on the veterans’ homes in Tilton and Plymouth.
And of course, I see him in pantry—rinsing dishes, scrubbing pots, emptying the dishwasher. At his retirement party last week, it was estimated that in his 50 years of service to Holderness School he has probably washed 4-5 million pots, pans, and dishes.
Yes, after 50 years of service to Holderness, Joseph Michael Hayes is retiring. His shoes won’t be easy to fill; who else will be there day in and day out, without a single complaint, to wash dishes with a smile on his face? But it’s not just about his work ethic. Joseph, his presence on campus, is deeply woven into the fabric of the school and the community, and his absence when he retires will be felt immensely.
Joseph began working at Holderness in 1968. He had just returned from two years as a cook’s assistant in the US Army and was well-trained to work in the Holderness School kitchen. In an interview with Rick Carey for Holderness School Today just three years ago, Joseph recalled a time when Weld Hall did not have a freezer, and he and the rest of the kitchen staff had to go outside in all sorts of weather to fetch frozen food.
During those days, Joseph was also a field artillery specialist in the National Guard. From 1972 until his retirement in 2005, Joseph earned a reputation for unwavering loyalty and consistency; at the close of his 33-year career, the Guard honored him for holding the record for the fewest missed days ever.
His years at Holderness have been similar. For 50 years Joseph has washed our dishes, attended athletic events, visited Out Back basecamp, eaten meals with us in the dining hall, and marched in local parades—always there to share his positive energy and unwavering loyalty. For these reasons, and many more, Holderness School has placed a plaque in the Weld Hall Pantry, dedicating it in appreciation of Joseph Michael Hayes, “for his incredible commitment, his work ethic, and his love of Holderness School.”
I will miss seeing Joseph at his station in the pantry as I am sure that everyone else in the community will; it won’t be the same without him. Fortunately, I suspect Joseph will remain in and be a part of the Holderness community. I hope to see him on his daily walks through town and during athletic games on the Upper Fields this fall, and I hope he will still join us occasionally at meals, sharing his news of the greater community. The fabric of this community is brighter and more complete because of Joseph, and I hope that won’t change because he has retired.