College Hill Elementary honors life of beloved staff member

Before departing for the summer, the students and staff at College Hill Elementary gathered a final time to honor a member of the school’s community.
Published: May. 24, 2023 at 7:17 PM CDT
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WICHITA, Kan. (KWCH) - Before departing for the summer, the students and staff at College Hill Elementary gathered a final time to honor a member of the school’s community.

Duane Bookout was the school’s head custodian for the last decade and spent two decades as a U.S. Army National Guard soldier.

Bookout died this past March at the age of 56.

“It’s an overwhelming feeling to see the love and support,” said Duane Bookout’s daughter Adrian Carter. “He was an extraordinary man, and you can see that through how his community has loved on us so well.”

Parent and College Hill Elementary PTO member Jason Barton organized this remembrance following Bookout’s passing because of his impact on this school.

“It’s real hard not to tear up right now. I’m really proud that the kids are going to get to see this,” said Barton. “They all loved Duane. He was a great guy. He had just as much pride in serving his country as he did serving the school. One of his greatest duties was that he got to lower and raise the flag every day. That flag that’s flying right now is the flag that he had his hands on last.”

That’s why Wednesday, around the flag pole outside of the school, students, staff and Bookout’s wife, Anita Bookout and daughter, Adrian Carter gathered.

Barton worked with the local American Legion riders to organize a ceremonial flag lowering, which included going over the meaning of each of the 13 folds of the flag to end up in the triangle shape to provide education about these types of honors.

It was handed to four fifth-grade students at the end.

“Two of the little girls who were involved in the ceremony went out with him every day to put up the flag, and so they had that special relationship. He just meant the world to us,” said Dr. Kathleen “Ann” Patterson, principal at College Hill Elementary.

It’s this school that’s been a support for Bookout’s family these last few months.

“Each and every one of the children has made us cards, some of them attended his funeral,” said Anita Bookout. “They made him a rock garden. They continually reach out to us.”

Carter said, “Happy to know they’re still a little piece of him out there that people can look at and honor. All the children wrote us letters, and they truly cared about him. So they can carry that on.”

The flag will be placed in a case with a plaque describing the legacy Bookout leaves.

Dr. Patterson said Mr. Bookout would read the notes parents sent with kids’ lunches.

“He developed a relationship with the kids. They had him in the cafeteria at lunch every day, and they’d talk to them,” said Dr. Patterson.

Anita Bookout said the school was his second home, and everyone there saw him work to make it the best place to be.

“He would spend his own money to go buy the best wax for the floors that you could get because he didn’t like the wax that the school district had. He would use his money to buy good wax,” said Dr. Patterson.

Mr. Bookout will be remembered for what he gave and taught others.

Carter said, “Compassionate. He loved and gave to so many people of all walks of life. It didn’t matter what they looked like, who they loved, what they thought in the world.”