BEACON FALLS — Each morning, the smiling face of Fred Smith greets students as they get off school buses in front of Woodland Regional High School. Rain, snow or shine, the school security guard welcomes all with a positive attitude and a pocket full of lollipops, as he’s done since 2004.
Smith, 77, didn’t always plan on working at a school.
Smith, who was born in Bridgeport, attended Pine High School, a former all-boys technical school in Ansonia that is no longer open. After graduating at 17 years old in 1959, Smith jumped right into the work force. For about three years, Smith worked in advertising in the printing industry, but his job wasn’t the only thing he focused on at the time.
Smith met a young woman named Mary-Ann who worked in the same office as him. After a summer of playful flirting, she offered him her phone number so they could stay in contact while she attended nursing school.
“I got home that day, I called her and I said, ‘Would you like to go bowling tonight?’ We got married at 19 and we’ve been married 57 years,” Smith said.
Soon after his relationship with Mary-Ann began, Smith started working at American Brass Company. There, he manufactured brass products for well-known companies at the time. Two children, two grandchildren and 43 years later, Smith retired at the age of 62. Just before he retired, Smith put his name in for an opening as a security guard at Woodland.
In 2004, he began the next chapter of his life at Woodland.
Smith said he applied for the security guard job because of its simplicity and proximity to his home in Beacon Falls. He said it was one of the best decisions he’s ever made.
“I’ve been here 15 years and it’s been the best 15 years of my working life,” Smith said.
Whether monitoring an event or the hallways, Smith is there if any trouble breaks out. His favorite part of his job, though, is helping to ease stressful days for members of the Woodland community.
“Fred knows how to make everyone’s day, whether that be a smile, advice or a lollipop,” senior Camille Terrell said.
Smith is known for having pockets full of lollipops, Blow Pops to be precise, that he hands out to people in the halls. Smith estimated he gives out over 2,000 lollipops each school year. A small gesture that brings Smith joy and helps create the positive environment at Woodland that he looks forward to each school day.
“I tell all the young people, the most important part of a job, more than money, is that you are happy doing it,” he said.
Smith is one of three security guards at Woodland, along with Mark Philbrick and Lenny Rubbo.
“When I first started, Fred had already been here for several years, so he took me in like I had known him for years. He was very helpful in showing me the ropes of the school. He’s just a great guy all around,” Philbrick said.
Rubbo echoed Philbrick’s sentiments. “Working with Fred is a real pleasure,” Rubbo said, adding “he is an inspiration.”
Smith enjoys watching students come and go from year to year and inevitably grow up. Two of those students were his grandchildren, Tyler and Tom Smith, who went through Woodland as their grandfather patrolled the halls.
As one of the oldest staff members at Woodland, students and faculty question how long Smith plans on staying at the school. At first, Smith planned on leaving Woodland when he turned 70. On his 70th birthday, he decided to stay until 75. Now, at 77 years old, he just hopes to stay as long as he can.
“At this stage in my life, I take one day at a time and one year at a time,” Smith said. “As long as my health holds up and my wife’s health holds up, I’ll probably be here a lot longer.”