When Fanny King started working for Tahoma High School as a night custodian last fall, she noticed that the wire rack being used for lost and found wasn’t working well for the volume of items that students misplace regularly. So she decided to build a new one, an attractive cedar and pine armoire, even though she hadn’t done much woodworking since a ninth-grade shop class many years ago.
The main hallway where the new lost-and-found stands is just past the east entrance of the school and is part of King’s assigned area, which stretches from the performing arts center to the auto shop.
“I take pride in it,” she said, explaining that the original inadequate and somewhat messy lost and found didn’t do justice to the new building. So, King decided to do something about it.
“I’m just kind of self-taught,” she said. “I’m not an artist. I just kind of freehand it.”
King doesn’t draw plans for the pieces she creates — rather she has a vision in her head and lets the materials take her where they will.
“I love experimenting and doing new things,” she added. “I see a need and I do it.”
While traveling through the hallway that leads behind the stage to the band and choir classrooms, King noticed that students were frequently sitting on the concrete floor. So, she built them a bench, and adorned it with carved instruments, musical notes, comedy and tragedy masks, and this quote: “The meaning of life is to find your gift. The purpose of life is to give it away.”
At age 11, King moved to California from Nicaragua, where she was born. She talks daily with her grandmother, who still lives in Nicaragua, and who taught her about generosity, she says.
“It’s better to give than to receive,” King says, noting that she enjoys creating pieces for the high school that are both functional and help make it feel more homey. “I just hope I inspire people to be more giving — to be kinder. It’s kind of a sad world sometimes.”
Collecting wood is part of what she loves about her hobby, particularly if it is repurposed, such as the wood pallets that she loves to dismantle and reuse. She donates her time and the materials to the school.
Before working for the school district, King was a general contractor and also owned her own cleaning business. When the position with the district opened up, King’s daughter, who attends Tahoma, told her she should apply.
Now, she works from 5 p.m. to 1:30 a.m. and goes home for a short rest. Then she gets up at 6 to see her daughter off to school and typically heads out to her workshop to tackle her current project. In addition to the lost and found and the bench for the performing arts hallway, King has built a long table for a staff workroom on an upper floor, a guitar rack for the band room, frames for the Student of the Quarter and National Board Certified teacher displays, wood-encased cooler boxes, tables for several staff areas and other benches.
“One of the many things that makes Fanny so special is her ability to see a need, create a solution and then build a beautiful and special piece,” Associate Principal Judy Beliveau said, mentioning the lost and found project and a recent staff recognition program project. “Fanny leaves everything better than she found it, and lives by the motto ‘It is better to bless others than to be blessed.’ She is definitely a blessing at THS!”