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Sons, daughters follow in fathers’ professional footsteps

JOHNSTOWN, Pa. — At the Greater Johnstown School District, a call for Mr. Jones could mean Michael or Gerald.

For the past three years, Michael Jones and his son Gerald Jones have been working together, helping students of the district navigate their studies.

Michael Jones’ career as a paraprofessional in the district began in 2010. He assists teachers in day-to-day schoolwork with students. Gerald joined him as a learning support specialist in the district after his service in the U.S Army ended.

“I was happy to learn we would be working together,” Michael said. “We both enjoy working with kids, getting them back on the right track.”

Michael also served in the Army in the ’90s during Operation Desert Storm, as a supply specialist at Fort Hood in Texas.

Gerald entered the Army in 2014 during the War in Afghanistan and completed his service in 2018.

This summer, Gerald is preparing to virtually tutor elementary school students while Michael is organizing summer course offerings to students who need a second chance to pass a class.

Gerald, 28, said his path from the Army to the school district was modeled after his father’s. Gerald and his sister, Tiasha, looked to their dad especially when their mother, Althea Jones, passed away in 2012 from cancer, he said.

“When my mom passed away, that was hard on all of us,” Gerald said. “My dad was such a big impact on my life, teaching me and my sister right from wrong. And he did it as a single dad.

“He’s made me the man I am today. I tell him every day, but I feel like it will never be enough.”

During the school year, the father-and-son pair work in the middle school.

“Sometimes, kids may have behavioral problems,” Gerald said. “I Iike to look at myself as a big brother to help steer themselves on the right path.

“I never envisioned myself working with my dad, but I had the opportunity and I’m glad I took it.”

‘Be like my dad’

For the Polaceks, welding runs in the family.

Bill Polacek’s father, John, learned how to weld in the Navy during World War II and worked on ships underwater, he said.

After returning to Johnstown, John Polacek transferred his welding skill learned in the Navy to Bethlehem Steel Corp.

“I always wanted to be like my dad,” Bill Polacek said. “My mother, a nurse, wouldn’t let me learn how to weld until I was 16 because my lungs wouldn’t be developed enough until then.

“I never thought it would take me to where I am today.”

Polacek is president and CEO of Johnstown Welding & Fabrication/JWF Industries. Polacek’s oldest son, Will, is the coatings operations manager at the company’s Iron Street location, and his daughter, Madison, is a member of the supply-chain team.

“Ironically, before my mother passed away, she told me that my father started his career in the shell plant that I own now,” he said.

‘Watch him grow’

JWF Industries provides services and products for the defense, commercial and energy industries, including tanks and ships.

Now, the company has 450 employees, including some additional family teams. Mark Arcurio Sr. and Mark Arcurio Jr. have been working together at the company for 12 years at the Iron Street location.

Arcurio Sr., a former mechanic in the United States Marine Corps, is a crew leader.

“It’s nice to be able to watch him grow in his trade, to earn more certifications, and to see the great work he does,” Arcurio Sr. said. “I’m very proud.”

Arcurio Jr. said he was always interested in welding, because that’s what his father did.

“It’s a blessing to work with my dad and show him the quality work I do,” he said. “It’s every boy’s dream growing up to work with their dad.”

‘Standards to live up to’

At age 60, Jeffery D. Wingard has recently accepted a temporary appointment to a local government position held for decades by his father.

He was 7 years old when his father, Melvyn Wingard, was first elected to the Rich-land Township board of supervisors.

“Doesn’t every boy want to grow up to be like his father?” he said. “You want to grow up to be like him, right?”

This spring, Melvyn, 95, retired from the board, with nearly 53 years of service under his belt.

Jeffery submitted his name to succeed his father and temporarily appointed to the board.

But he’ll have to run for election in the spring of next year.

“I grew up in his shadow, so to speak,” Jeffery Wingard said.

“You had some high standards to live up to. He was respected and my father had respect for residents of the township. It was a dual thing.

“You do things for other people and that’s what it’s all about.”

Wingard is also president of the Richland Volunteer Fire Department, where his grandfather was a charter member.

The department is full of fathers and sons, he said.

“Assistant Chief Tim Shaffer and his boys,” Wingard said.

“And Chief Wes Meyers has two …”

‘Make our bond … stronger’

At FWA Gym in Johnstown, certified personal trainer and gym manager Donny Roebuck works out with his 16-year-old son, Damoni Roebuck.

Donny said he started training Damoni at age 11 with body weight exercises and calisthenics.

“I hope he one day wants to take over for what I’m doing because he loves to be active in the weight room,” he said.

But when they are in the gym together, it’s much more than fitness or career path. Working out together strengthens their relationship, he said.

“The hours we spend together not only working out, but we are talking and solving problems, going into issues,” Donny said. “I’m listening to him and, most of all, he’s listening to me. It definitely helped make our bond even stronger.

“I’m able to sit and find out things he might not always share with me because I might not have time to listen like I normally should. But when we are going through something together, he can have a better respect of my job — experiencing it firsthand rather than being on the outside looking in.”

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