Longtime LSM custodian swept up in surprise


Celina Daigle

A reporter from WFSB Channel 3’s Surprise Squad announced a special honor for LSM custodian Lowell Wortman last week in front of the entire school. The segment airs Dec. 6 at 5:30 p.m.

Ashley Hamel, Contributing writer

At Lewis S. Mills High School on Wednesday, classes were stopped mid-period, and students were brought to the gym for a surprise for both the students and the staff.

When entering the gym everyone was awed at Mills’ very own business teacher, Barbara Angelicola-Manzolli, talking to reporter Nicole Nalepa from WFSB Channel 3 News. Everyone was ushered into the stands in the gym by grade – sitting, watching and  waiting; Nobody knew what was going on. Once all 750 or so students were seated, the same question repeated over and over in the bleachers: “What’s going on?”

Nalepa spoke into the camera in front of the students and staff about why she was there: The Channel 3 Surprise Squad was in the gym and they planned to honor an impeccable staff members who graduated from Mills in 1974 and has worked at his alma matter for 40 years.

That man? Lowell Wortman, one of the most important people at the school. The man that keeps the school in working order, our custodian. The man that does everything behind the scenes.

Wortman was nominated by Angelicola-Manzolli to receive this recognition. When asked why she nominated Wortman, Angelicola-Manzolli said, “I just wanted him to know that everybody cares.”

Angelicola-Manzolli came up with the idea from watching Channel 3 every day and seeing the Surprise Squad celebrate different people. She knew that Wortman always gets thanked and is very much appreciated by the school community, but she wanted him to have the same view of himself that everybody else had.

Celina Daigle
LSM custodian Lowell Wortman listened to a WFSB Channel 3 Surprise Squad member as his special selection for an honor and prizes – including UConn Lady Husky tickets – was announced last week.

Around the school, it is easy to see all of the work that Wortman does and how important he is to the school community. From setting up almost every event before, after and during school, to making the halls sparkle. He works hard every day and is always there to help anybody that needs him, according to the several school staff members who supported his nomination with letters of support.

The applause from students and staff when Wortman was honored echoed throughout the gymnasium alongside the roar of cheers and whistles. Everyone made as much noise as they could to show their appreciation for him.

As part of Wednesday’s surprise, the Channel 3 squad gave Wortman two tickets to a UCONN Women’s Basketball Game in January and spending cash for him and his wife for at the game. Wortman was incredibly grateful and told all of the people who were watching a story form when he was in school, a piece of his past that he has held close to him. He admitted not wanting to leave the school when it was time to graduate as a student, and appreciation at returning to its ranks as an employee a few years later. Wortman also shared one of his trademark humorous quips with the crowd. Many watching on were truly touched by the moment of gratitude – some wiping at tears as they watched the visibly surprised Wortman receive his honor.

The segment filmed at Mills will be on Channel 3 News on Thursday, Dec. 6 at 5:30 p.m., celebrating Wortman with the Surprise Squad.