Chairman's Message: Starting My Journey As MCAA Chairman

Words: Larry Vacala

Larry Vacala, MCAA Chairman

  I want to thank everyone who is a member and supporter of the MCAA for your trust in me to lead the association. This is truly an honor, and I will strive to work hard as we go through the next two years. I would like to thank all the chairmen that have served before me for the outstanding job of making this organization what it is today. This association has stayed strong during the pandemic and has continued to grow its membership. I will keep the course, preserving and promoting the masonry industry for a strong future.     I’d like to thank Paul Oldham for his commitment these past eight years and for the great job that he has done as Chairman during the pandemic! Paul showed strong leadership and tremendous courage to continue with two in-person Midyear Meetings, and a special winter meeting in Florida, due to the 2021 convention being postponed until June.  All three venues were beautiful, and the feedback received from the members was very positive. If you’ve never been to a Midyear Meeting, you’re missing out. In most members’ opinion, it is the best meeting and networking event of the year for our association. You are getting to view some of the newest equipment and products in the industry from our Speed Daters. You will meet masonry legends in our industry willing to share their knowledge, experience, and insight for your future success. Once you attend a Midyear event, you will not wish to miss another. I will have the details for the 2022 Midyear Meeting in my following letter. I’ve been a member of the MCAA for 32 years. Since joining the Executive Board, I have been blessed to work with a great group of chairmen, Paul Oldham, Paul Odom, Mike Sutter, and Mark Kemp. Our current Executive Board members, Dick Dentinger, Kent Huntley, and Paul Cantarella Jr. — our newest member, all share the same vision for MCAA. We have a great group of regional VPs, committee chairs, and state chairs who volunteer to better this association—looking forward to working with you all.   We are very fortunate to have Jeff Buczkiewicz and a great MCAA staff that does a superb job making everything happen! Angie Parisi, Todd Fredrick, Dan Kamys, Bronzella Brown, Jennifer Verdonck, Jason Blake, Jordan Van Leeuwen, Cassandra Stern, and Bruno Celdran. For those of you that I have not had the pleasure of meeting, I would like to tell you a bit about myself. I am a Union Mason Contractor specializing in masonry restoration. I also own a General Contracting Co., operating primarily in the Chicagoland area, growing up in a big family, the 2nd oldest of 11 children. I was raised on the north side of Chicago. Our father, Bill, was a hard-working carpenter and a great provider for our family.  He introduced us all to construction and taught us a lot, mainly how important it is to work hard no matter what we do. We all held jobs at a very young age and were taught if you wanted something nice, you must work for it. Our mother, Julia, was a saint, and she taught us mostly about respect and caring for others. She had many jobs besides raising 11 children. She was a crossing guard, helped in the church, worked in the school cafeteria, volunteered her time to many charitable organizations, and was a great cook. She had a big heart and would always reach out to help others in need.   I’ve been married for 30 years to my beautiful wife, Lauren. Lauren and I live on a horse farm in Illinois, just north of Chicago. We have two very adventurous sons, Tyler, 27, and Lane, 25. Both are working for the company when they’re not racing cars, motorcycles, or snowmobiles. I had no interest in going to college, so once I graduated high school, I entered the workforce as a laborer for a general contractor.   My first introduction to masonry came when the laborers for the mason contractor working on our project didn’t show up for work. My boss lent me out to this mason contractor for a few days. Working with and watching the bricklayers, I knew this was the type of work I wanted to do. I first learned the art of spreading mortar when I showed up to work with my foot in a cast and couldn’t perform as a laborer.  Since I couldn’t walk very well, they gave me a trowel and taught me how to spread mortar. This was when I began working on my bricklaying skills as an apprentice in the school of hard knocks. At that time, I never thought this trade was anything more than a paycheck and an adventure. I figured out quickly it was much more. I started to love the creativity and artistry of the trade and wanted to continue to excel. In 1979, after six years of working in the masonry field, I took another full-time job as a firefighter on the Evanston Fire Dept., a suburb of Chicago. Because I worked 24 hours on duty and 48 hours off, I decided this was a perfect time to start my own business, so I did. Tuckpointing houses & chimneys, building fireplaces, and doing veneers became my passion. Most of the projects were historic homes in the northern suburbs of Chicago. This was when I started my own company. In 1989 I started doing commercial projects. At this time, I signed up with the Mason Contractors Association of Greater Chicago. After dedicating 20 years of service as a firefighter, I retired in 1999. Retirement proved to be much more time-consuming as I am busier than ever. After my ten years of involvement with MCA GC, I was elected Board President. With that role, I became regional VP for MCAA.  After a few years as regional VP for MCAA, I was asked to serve on the executive board. 2016 started my eight-year term. It’s been a tremendous experience. I learned more than I could have imagined about our industry and business. I met some fantastic people and formed friendships from all over the country.  The MCAA is like growing up in a big family, genuinely caring about each other and willing to help in any way possible. If you’re looking to get the most out of this association, you should attend a meeting, introduce yourself, and you will be amazed at how much we all have in common.  In my following letter, I will report on the 2022 Masonry convention.
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