Hromadas enjoy best of times
Editor's Note: Unretired is a regular feature spotlighting the lives of Purdue Agriculture alumni who have found significant careers after reaching retirement age.We thought you would enjoy this story about an alumnus who is having the time of his life by simply enjoying the times of his life.
Charlie Hromada, BS ’53, MS ’54, has stared into the black-as-coal eyes of cancer three different times. And three times he has made cancer blink first.
Hromada (pronounced like the hotel chain) would be the first to admit that it wasn’t easy and it wasn’t cheap. Colon cancer kicked him around a bit in 1995, cost him two-thirds of his liver in 1997, and spread to a lung in 2001.
Somewhere between rounds two and three of the stare down with the highest stakes imaginable, Hromada’s eyes were opened to what he had only noticed peripherally during his phenomenal 45-year career to the very top of the pest control business.
The rest of his life.
“It was just a good time to leave,” Hromada says of his gold-watch day back in 1998, when friends and co-workers gathered in Memphis, Tenn., to say goodbye, good luck and thank you to the man who, as senior vice president, helped make Terminix a billion-dollar-a-year business with 500 offices in 44 states.
“My career was exciting,” says Hromada. “It was a lot of fun for 45 years, seeing a company grow and knowing you had something to do with it.”
Charlie and his wife of 49 years, Frankie, still live in Memphis, where Charlie occasionally consults to the pest control industry he knows so well.
But between spending time with their five grandchildren, maintaining a second home in Florida, building a new, smaller home in Memphis and traveling the country, there is little time for consulting. The days are just too full.
And none, perhaps, more full than June 2, 2004, when his university got to offer its congratulations and say thank you in the Hromada Grand Foyer inside Pfendler Hall.
Yes, the Hromada Grand Foyer.
How appropriate that the grand entryway in the sparkling trophy of a building is named after Charlie and Frankie Hromada. It’s directly above the research lab where Hromada toiled for two years, researching a procedure that would not only earn him a master’s degree in entomology but also launch him into a 45-year career with Terminix.
About the same time Hromada was earning his bachelor’s degree in forestry, the E.L. Bruce Co., a wood-flooring manufacturer, looked to Purdue for help.
Some Bruce customers had found termites eating through their wood floors. The Bruce Co. called John Osmun for help.
Osmun, then head of Purdue’s entomology department, found Hromada on a recommendation from Eric Stark, a Purdue forestry professor. This was a pesticide application procedure that required someone with an understanding of wood.
“I guess I was just in the right place at the right time,” Hromada sheepishly admits.
For the next two years, Charlie spent most of the daylight and many of the night-light hours hunkered down in a lab in the basement of Pfendler (then Entomology) Hall, working on his master’s research project. Hromada injected chemical solutions into structural timbers to test their ability to penetrate wood and kill termites.
“Alumni like Charlie Hromada are wonderful role models for our current students,” says Steve Yaninek, head of Purdue’s entomology department.
“Charlie’s success in the pest control industry is a testament to his ability to make the most of the opportunity provided by his training in entomology at Purdue.”
With his research completed, Hromada headed for Memphis in 1954, seeking his fortune with Terminix, a subsidiary of the same E.L. Bruce Co. whose floorboards Hromada’s research had helped debug.
“Students studying entomology today have many of the same opportunities, and alumni like Charlie help show where those opportunities can lead,” Yaninek adds.
Now, 50 years later, Charlie and Frankie were enjoying their own private Purdue Homecoming with a style and flair no football game could ever match.
During a tour of Pfendler, Hromada looked at the squeaky-clean facility where once his lab had stood and wondered aloud where his life’s journey had taken him.
“When I was a student, we studied insects in a lab right over there,” Hromada said, pointing over his shoulder. “Now they are studying DNA…It’s just amazing.”
As she spoke, Frankie journeyed even further back and far into the future at the same time.
“Charlie’s dad came to this country from a small village (Tuzina) in Czechoslovakia when he was 16 years old,” Frankie explained. “He had very little, aside from a dream of seeking his fortune in the new world.
“Charlie is an only child, there are no more Hromadas. I think it is very important that his name is carried on, that people won’t forget the Hromada name.”
It’s a name now etched in bronze and in perpetuity on the wall of Pfendler Hall.
|© 2004 Purdue Agriculture|