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--- Issued December 1, 2013

In 2013, we are extremely proud to feature in our annual calendar 12 of our employees who started their careers with us when they were residents of public housing. We think their individual stories are compelling enough to feature on a monthly basis throughout the year -- to honor these employees and to help celebrate the 75th Anniversary of the Housing Authority of the City of Erie:

John Rad -- December 2013

John Rad enjoys his job, but he says that if he ever wins the lottery, he’s likely to “call in rich.”

“I don’t need my job to be who I am,” say Rad, a mechanic in the maintenance department. If I could, I would be traveling … to Canada, South America, all over. Who knows what I would do if I had lots of money?”

John, his wife Maria, and their son, John, then 13, came to this country from a refugee camp in Yugoslavia in 1990, after leaving his homeland of Romania the year before. In Romania, he had been an industrial electrician from 1971 to 1989.

“But we got tired of the Communist system that was making the country so poor, so we ended up coming to the United States.” Their first stop was Twin Falls, Idaho, where they lived for nine months, working in the construction business in nearby Nevada and learning English.

Nine months later, “We decided to move to a new part of the country – we had nothing to lose.

“We decided to come to the East Coast, because it was more like Europe. For example, believe it or not, in Idaho, there is a bigger celebration for Thanksgiving than for Christmas. On the east coast of the U.S., Christmas is bigger, like in Europe, and that made us more comfortable because we are Christians.”

A cousin in Erie invited them to come here in 1991, and that’s where they stayed ever since. Their daughter, Rebecca, was born in 1992 and graduated from high school with honors.

Between 1991 and 1993, John took a number of jobs when he could find work while improving his English. The family moved into public housing in 1992, and John entered the Step-Up Program.

He was hired immediately in the maintenance department as a Laborer upon graduation, with no break from the work he had been doing at the Authority.

“Now I am a full mechanic. I intend to retire from the Erie Housing Authority, but who knows when? The way this economy is going, I may have to work here even after I die!”

“I do try to make people around me happy,” he says. “I do my best to make everybody happy, even though that is impossible.”

“I have been married 40 years to my wife, Maria. I became a citizen in 1999, and we have our own house, which we moved into in 2001.”