Guam base bids farewell to mechanic after 61 years on job

Capt. Jay Lewis, right, executive officer of U.S. Naval Base Guam, presents a letter of appreciation to Antonio Juanico for 61 years of service to the Navy at Juanico’s retirement party May 8.


By TIM WIGHTMAN | STARS AND STRIPES Published: May 17, 2009

First things first: Antonio Juanico plans to rest a while.

But after 61 years as a mechanic on Naval Base Guam, his thoughts won’t be far from the cranes and trucks and other heavy equipment that occupied his days.

“I loved the work. I love all my co-workers,” Juanico said in a phone interview Wednesday. “That’s why I liked to continue my service to the Navy.”

The 81-year-old native of the Philippines called it quits May 8 in a ceremony held at the base’s transportation building in front of those friends and co-workers.

“[Mr. Juanico’s] motivation, willingness to assist and mentor others and outstanding leadership have served our organization, the U.S. Navy and our country well,” Juanico’s project director Wayne Cornell said at the ceremony, according to a news release.

Juanico’s journey started in 1948 in the Philippines when he heard recruiters were in the area looking for people to work as laborers to rebuild Guam after the island was devastated during World War II.

“So, I heard about it. I just come down there. And in my mind, I’d like to go to Guam,” Juanico said.

He worked as a laborer for the U.S. naval government contractor MAS-DELCO until 1952, when it closed operations.

Juanico then caught on as a mechanic for the Public Works Center with Naval Air Station and Naval Main Base Guam for the next 30 years.

After retiring from that, he continued performing various services to the Navy and then, in 2000, accepted a position as a heavy equipment mechanic with contractor DZSP 21, which provides a wide range of services for the base.

Throughout the years, Juanico has adapted to technological changes with the vehicles and heavy equipment that came his way, saying, “It was very much a challenge.”

Felix Achaigua, Juanico’s co-worker and friend since 1968, said Juanico was always eager to help out and always excited about his job.

“If he had it his way, he’d still be working,” Achaigua said.

“He likes his job, and it’s very hard for him to miss work, but that’s 61 years, man. We hope to see him here, but it’s time for him to take it easy.”

While Juanico looks forward to spending his retirement with his wife of almost 50 years, their two children and 12 grandchildren, he doesn’t plan on being a stranger at the base.

“My mind is over there at the base,” he said.

“Nice people. I miss all of them.”