Campus Closeup: Joe Cherette

For 26 years, Joe Cherette’s (Plant Operations) work as a painter has helped to keep Northern Michigan University’s colors fresh and bright. One example of his work is in the women's volleyball locker room, where he painted a 45-degree angled green and gold graphic.

Cherette said his most challenging job was completely re-painting Hedgcock in the mid-'90s, before it was renovated from a field house into a student services center. He had to use heavy equipment such as a scissor lift to reach everything. He’s most proud of the work he put into New Science this summer. He put up new railings and corners and painted over the white walls.

In addition to mixing his own paint and applying it as needed, Cherette hangs wallpaper, repairs drywall, responds to other general maintenance requests and monitors supplies for the plant operations shop. He said there are no masons in the shop, so he also works on carpentry, signage and tile jobs.

“I come across really nice people who appreciate the work getting done in their areas," he added. "They’re very glad to see me. It’s a big community and my job involves getting around, meeting people and discussing what they want done. It’s a correspondence with people. I enjoy that part and I like fixing things and making them look good."

Before getting married and settling down, Cherette worked as a painter for contractors, following them around the country to hot, dry places like Florida and northern Texas. He then worked for his father-in-law, who was a builder. Cherette went back to painting houses for several years before joining the NMU staff in 1984, after spending years painting houses. He was happy to get back to his native Upper Peninsula.

He and his wife, Sue, have two daughters: Allison and Angela.

“My kids have a lot of respect for what I do,” he said. “When my youngest daughter was about 7, the Superior Dome was getting painted. She did a presentation in school about how proud she was of me for painting the whole dome, which I hadn’t done.”

Cherette enjoys fishing, a pasttime that has generated many interesting stories. One involved saving a man's life from the icy grip of Lake Superior.

"His boat sank by ours. It was in the springtime, when the water was cold, and we were the first ones there to get him out of the water. He didn’t have a life jacket on. He spent two minutes in that cold water.”

Cherette paints walls and ceilings, but he has not yet pursued artistic painting on canvas. He said he might take that up as a hobby when he retires next year.


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Updated: November 19, 2009

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