Colleagues remember Northwood Elementary janitor

Over the years, she became a constant presence, working after-school shifts as a custodian and making sure to assist anyone who might need help.

In early June, Jo Anna Canter, who worked as a janitor for nine years at Northwood Elementary School, passed away unexpectedly, just after the end of the school year. She was 65.

Throughout the years, Nancy Meyer, also a janitor at the school, said she saw Canter go above and beyond what she was required to do.

“She’d help you any way she could, always pitching in or jumping in where she could,” Meyer said.

Meyer, along with other school employees, were surprised to hear news of her death.

“It was just a weekend, she was going home to spend Memorial (Day) weekend with the family, doing stuff with her granddaughter. I was waiting for her to come in the next day. I got the call the night before. I was just waiting for her to come in the next day.” Meyer said. “None of us were expecting it, it was right out of the blue. She was too young to go so soon, she was part of the family here. It’s just sad we got nine years and that’s all we got.”

Along with being a hard worker, Meyer described her as someone who was a fun person to be around. She was spunky, nice and liked to help in anyway she could, Meyer said.

Northwood Elementary needed someone like Canter, she said.

“She was just something else, you really can’t put your finger on it. It’s just the things she does or says, she was just funny, but she did a good job and she enjoyed working here,” Meyer said. “She was always good with the kids and she helped where she was needed … She definitely is missed.”

Andrea Korreck, the school’s principal, said she would frequently interact with Canter as she cleaned the school after students had left.

“A lot of times I didn’t leave right away, and a lot of times I would be there when she was coming in to take out the trash or clean the bathrooms across from my office. She was so kind like ‘is it OK if I come in now and take out the trash?’ She never wanted to feel like she was bothering me or intruding and was always very kind,” Korreck said.

Canter didn’t just show up to clean, she wanted to make a difference for Northwood students, Korreck said.

“She had some sass about her, too,” Korreck said. “One of my favorite stories is there were some kids and they tried to take a sign that said ‘teacher of the year’ on a concrete base and she happened to see them and kind of walked over there and asked them what they were doing and was trying to set them straight. They dropped the sign and she said ‘I couldn’t believe those kids did that and I was going to find out who they were.’”

Though didn’t interact with everyone at the school regularly, Canter quietly impacted their lives, Korreck said.

“Even though she had a little bit of sassiness and could be funny and tell it like it was, she just deeply cared and wanted everything to be right. She wanted to do a good job,” Korreck said. “I think for many staff members, she was sometimes behind the scenes. Especially because of her hours, she might not have had regular interaction with people, but with teachers and staff members who tend to stay later, she might have. I think people should know what she wanted was to take care of them. By taking care of the building, she was taking care of them. That’s what it was all about for her.”