Iredell County Sheriff’s Office SRO Robert Mountain poses for a selfie with a few of his 500 kids.


School Resource Officer Robert Mountain got the full celebrity treatment on Thursday afternoon.

Nearly two hours after most of the staff at Celeste Henkel Elementary School had gone home for the day, a steady stream of cars and minivans was pulling into the parking lot so students and parents (and a few preschool-age siblings) could say goodbye to their much-loved SRO and wish him well in his retirement.

The students brought balloons, cards and gift bags. They ate watermelon and ran around the parking lot while patiently waiting their turn. Then they offered goodbye hugs, asked Officer Mountain to sign their yearbooks, and posed for countless selfies.

The send-off came a day after Celeste Henkel administrators recognized the SRO for his service to the school and the community during the fifth-grade graduation ceremony, stirring strong emotions from nearly everyone in attendance.

“All the kids were crying,” Mountain said. “It took all my energy not to cry back.”

Mountain will officially retire from the Iredell County Sheriff’s Office on Tuesday, bringing an end to a law enforcement career that began 45 years ago. After serving as an Army MP for three years, he worked as a sheriff’s deputy in Hertford County for five years and then served in the N.C. Highway Patrol for 20 years, retiring as a master trooper in 2007. He then worked as a U.S. deputy marshal for 11 years before finishing his career as an ICSO school resource officer for the past six years.

The students at Celeste Henkel know little or nothing about Mountain’s impressive credentials.

They just know what an awesome SRO he has been during the three years he has been assigned to their school.

“He makes everybody’s day,” rising sixth-grader Templeton Anderson explained. “He’s funny. He’s caring. If you’re having a bad day, he’ll walk with you and talk with you and cheer you up.”

ICSO Sgt. Reggie Allen has worked as an SRO for 18 years, including the last four as a supervisor. So he knows what it takes to be a great SRO.

And Mountain, Allen said, has “it.”

“He’s personable,” the sergeant explained as he watched his friend and colleague write a personal note in another student’s yearbook. “The kids love him and he’s interactive with everyone –staff, students and parents — and he’s always smiling, upbeat.

“It’s going to be big shoes to fill,” he added.

Mountain, who knows the names of the vast majority of the school’s 500 students and has treated many of them to ice cream on their birthday, said he approached the last six years of his career — while working at Celeste Henkel and at Lake Norman High — the same way he approached the first 39 years.

By doing what he loves — helping people.

During Thursday’s send-off, he continued to encourage the students, telling the older kids that they would be in college before long and promising the littles that his replacement would be “just as nice” as he is.

“I treat every one of the kids like my own — every single one,” he said. “If I can get one kid on the right track, all these years are worth it.”

SRO Robert Mountain and his family pose for a photo at his send-off.

As Mountain was posing for selfies and letting the kids try on his hat, his wife, daughter and grandson stood nearby, watching proudly and struggling with their own emotions as they observed firsthand how much the students loved him.

“I’m actually speechless,” Bridgette, his adult daughter, said. “It’s pretty nice to see.”

Pearl, Mountain’s wife of 44 years, said she never thought her husband’s retirement day would come. She figured he liked his patrol vehicle too much to ever walk away from the job. (Mountain confirmed that it was going to be very hard to turn in his car.)

“He loves the kids, and they love him,” she said. “They’ve made a big impact on him.”

The couple has a series of trips planned in the coming months, but Pearl said her husband should not expect his retirement to be all rest and relaxation.

“I already have my honey-do list. I’ve got it ready for him,” she said. “He might want to come back.”

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