Campus Closeup: John Basolo

The late Dominic Jacobetti wielded a great deal of influence during his 40 years as a state representative. He was called the “Godfather of the U.P.” for his ability to secure funds for multiple regional projects—including some at NMU—and “the working man’s representative” for intervening personally on behalf of organizations and individuals. One such benefactor was his Negaunee neighbor, John Basolo (Central Receiving).

“Dominic got me the job at Northern,” Basolo said. “I had gone to school here for one-and-a-half years studying social work, but I wasn’t ready to be a student and quit. I’ve regretted that ever since. I worked for two years at Cliffs-Dow until that shut down. When Dominic got me in at Northern, I promised that I wouldn’t cause him any problems. Thirty-nine years later, I’m still here.”

Basolo started as a night-shift custodian. He worked from 10 p.m. to 6:30 a.m. in the former Hedgcock Fieldhouse, which was home to NMU basketball and volleyball. The building also served as a venue for big-name concerts, circuses and car/recreation shows.

“This was before Lakeview, the Superior Dome and the Berry [Events Center],” he added.” I enjoyed that shift and working in Hedgcock. Sometimes you could hear what was going on. I didn’t get to watch much, but I was invited to see Muhammad Ali spar with Larry Holmes. They wanted to make sure there were bodies in the audience because they hadn’t promoted it much beforehand. I had never seen professional boxing and I was amazed by how quick and light-footed Ali was.”

His custodial crew was responsible for cleaning up after nighttime events, occasionally pulling a double shift on Saturdays. “I remember when the band Chicago came to town. The garbage left behind after that concert was—I swear—four feet high and three feet wide.”

After a dozen years, Basolo transferred to the day shift in Lee Hall. He said he is disheartened that the facility is no longer in use because it once served as the historic main hub of Northern Normal, complete with a kitchen and ballroom.

Basolo’s next career move was to Central Stores. On the day he started, his manager had just left for a 30-day vacation. With no experience in that type of work, Basolo found himself left in the company of student employees who knew more than he did.

He said the Central Stores warehouse was stocked with supplies for plumbers, electricians, custodians, secretaries and food service staff. The signs remain, but the stores became obsolete. Now known as Central Receiving, the warehouse is a point of entry for all campus deliveries except those bound for the NMU Bookstore. Basolo said arrivals used to be documented by hand, but a scanner has since made the process electronic and more efficient.

This week, Basolo hauled laptop equipment temporarily stored in trucks to the Superior Dome for distribution. He and his student employees routinely deliver freight across campus, handle outgoing UPS and FedEx shipments, help with small moving jobs and assist in the university’s recycling effort. They also work closely with Printing Services next door, wrapping and delivering print jobs.

“When I was a night-shift custodian, I didn’t know much about the rest of the university because I wasn’t on campus during the day. With this job, I get to meet a lot of people and visit different offices. It’s also rewarding being around students; they make me feel young.”

A past recipient of the NMU Employee Service Award, Basolo spends some of his free time at one of two camps. He has also coordinated the Negaunee Invitational (basketball) Tournament for 38 years. The NIT drew 118 teams last spring. Basolo said he recruits help from his wife, Terry, and daughter, Kristy, an NMU graduate.


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Updated: August 20, 2009

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