This year marks the 35th anniversary for American RENOLIT roll finisher Joe Malekovic, whose time at the plastic manufacturing company in La Porte has been rewarding from the very beginning.
A Chicago native, Malekovic and his family moved to his father’s hometown of La Porte in 1973. After high school he wanted to experience life beyond La Porte, so he packed up his life after school and moved to Florida. After spending a year there and meeting his future wife, he moved back to La Porte, where he started his career at American RENOLIT.
“I’ve always had a job, ever since I was 15 years old,” Malekovic said. “So a week after I moved back to La Porte, my mother’s friend who worked at American RENOLIT said that they were always hiring. He gave them my name, I got a call, went down there to interview, was hired that day, and the rest is history.”
As roll finisher, Malekovic’s role in American RENOLIT’s production process involves finishing the rolls that they use on the production lines to surface the plastic film, a process that is vital in making American RENOLIT’s finished product. While his role keeps the line moving throughout the company, Malekovic is quick to praise his coworkers within and outside of his department.
“The maintenance boys are there to save everyone, making sure everything is up and running smoothly,” he said. “Without them, certain things get out of our hands and they’re there to help every time.”
“It’s hard work every day, but we formed a family bond right away,” he said. “Even when there is someone new, we bring them into our little family. That’s the benefit of being in a small community where everyone knows each other. There’s a chance you know them outside of work, know their parents. It’s the best atmosphere to have, where you get to welcome anyone who walks through the doors.”
Outside of work, Malekovic enjoys spending time with his wife of 35 years and his four kids and doting on his two grandkids. He walks his dogs every day, and even goes so far as to feed the neighborhood squirrels.
“I’m sure years from now my ghost will still be feeding those squirrels,” he joked. “I enjoy the simple life.”
While he spends most of his time with his family, Malekovic remembers the days of seeing his favorite musicians and bands in live shows. He remembers, years ago, meeting Greg Alman and his guitarists after a show one night, but it was helping set up the stage at the La Porte Civic Center that remains one of his favorite experiences.
“I knew the man who managed it and he said he needed help setting up the stage,” he said. “So I went to help set up for a show featuring Stevie Ray Vaughn!”
“I was 23, and it was May 10, 1987, and I met Stevie that morning,” he said. “He was so casual. Just think about the last friend you made, and that is how Stevie was. He was so respectful. I had a great foundation of how to treat people—my parents were great role models for me—but watching how this musician treated others just for one day really showed me how to live and how to treat others. I remember that lesson every day.”
To learn more about American RENOLIT, visit www.renolit.com/laporte.