By DIANE GASPER-O'BRIEN
PLAINVILLE -- He's putting his broom in the closet and climbing down the ladder.
But don't expect Chuck Arnold to plop down in an easy chair.
The 80-year-old Plainville man decided it was time to retire earlier this month from his custodial duties at the local Catholic grade school.
But it's still hard to catch him by telephone "until it's dark outside," said his daughter-in-law, Casey Arnold.
Arnold started at Sacred Heart School part-time in 1996, and he told them he would take the janitorial job "as long as it didn't interfere with my baby-sitting duties."
Arnold had been working as an oilfield production superintendent, and when his company was sold to another company, he started baby-sitting his two young grandsons, Jake and John Arnold, ages 18 months and five weeks.
"Both in diapers," Grandpa said. "My wife was working, so I watched them. We had a lot of fun together."
Arnold learned he also enjoyed being around a lot of other youngsters.
"I learned a lot about housecleaning in the service," he said of his two-year stint in the U.S. Army. "I fell into a groove (at Sacred Heart), and one thing led to another."
Arnold took over full-time at Sacred Heart in 1998 and stayed on well past his 70th birthday because, "when you have good people to work for, times go good," he said.
"If I needed a hand, all I had to do was mention it, and I'd have six of them helping," he added with a smile.
Little did he know he would experience a lot more support his last 12 years at Sacred Heart.
He battled colon cancer in 2002, and "they got me back on my feet," Arnold said of the school's staff, students and parents.
"Their prayers got me through that," he said.
The school rallied around Arnold again when he had heart surgery in 2005 and again a few years later when his wife of 51 years, Jonnie, died in May 2011.
"We just kind of work together," Arnold said of the Sacred Heart staff. "It's such a loving bunch of people."
Arnold said the students also have been a big part of what kept him coming to work every day but he decided it was time to step aside "because we use ladders a lot, and I'm starting to have trouble getting up and down them."
"All those little people, there are so many different personalities," he said as youngsters ran up to say hi to Arnold at a summer church camp last week at the school. "That's what kept me here so long."
And that's what will keep bringing him back for visits.
"I already miss it," Arnold said. "Oh yes, I'll be back."