This post is in memory of a man none of you know. But to me, he was a great man. Joe Sikic.
He was my mentor. He took a confused high school drop out aimlessly bouncing from job to job and gave him a chance to determine his future. His direction in life.
A European, Croatian to be specific and a hard man. More than once he threw a part out of the shop during my learning process. I wasn't allowed to read the newspaper or a book or anything during coffee breaks. We didn't have cell phones then. "I'm paying for your coffee break. So you'll concentrate on work." He'd say. And I'd spend my coffee break writing down fractions in a 1/64th format up to one inch, calculate in my head the three decimal equivalent and then write it down and memorize it. During the day he'd shout out fractions and I had to know the decimal equivalent.
My parents weren't his biggest fans and more than once I had to tell my dad to stay out of it. It was a small jobber shop that earned me invaluable experience in the mid 80's when everyone else was out of work and only the most seasoned and experienced machinists were still working. Nobody wanted an apprentice. They all wanted machinists with 15-20 years experience. Not a former prep cook.
$6.00/hr Don't laugh. Its 1987. Considering my previous job as a cook was $5.50/hr...I was in heaven with the raise. I worked hard and laugh now at how he would teach me lessons. Things I still apply today. I always have the cleanest most organized work bench. For a reason. Things he taught me. Things they don't teach today. Tricks of the trade. Tricks I have since adapted and applied to the action figures I make.
I wanted to have lunch with him. To thank him. For all he did for me. Its been a few years since last we talked. I was in the corner store when I saw him. No...it wasn't him. It was him alright, but younger. It was his son. Upon talking to him I learned that Joe had passed away from cancer.
I feel bad that I never fully told him how much I appreciate everything he did for me. The opportunity he provided me and the skills he willing shared and taught me. He was a hard man with a soft center. A good man. I feel very fortunate to have known him and to have apprenticed under a man as skilled as he was.
I wish I could have told you in person.
Thank you Joe.