For our Acadian Alumni Association spotlight, we hear from Clay Henry and John Mrak. The two have been friends for longer than they could count.
Clay Henry and John Mrak worked together for more than 40 years at Acadian, creating memories and a friendship along the way that is still going strong.
Before retiring in 2019, Clay was vice president of operations. And John, currently an IT manager, celebrated his astonishing 43rd year with Acadian this past May.
But before working alongside each other, their friendship truly got its start in 1974 when they were in 8th grade.
“He was my first friend when I moved to Lafayette from Morgan City,” Clay said. “While waiting for a school bus together one year around 1975, someone approached us and asked if we wanted to join the American Red Cross Youth Program.”
John remembers he and Clay sat in on a recruitment session after school and they decided to join at the same time, based on their passions for helping others.
“Well, we both were big into the Red Cross at the time,” John said. “We handled disaster missions, standing by at events throughout the area and getting First Aid certifications.”
They both wanted to work for Acadian after school, so they decided to go in together to apply. And the rest, as they say, is history. A history of work, and of course, a little fun along the way.
Some of that work along the way included football games, along with helping firefighters when an emergency would come up.
John said it wasn’t uncommon to work alongside each other early on in the company. And as the company grew, so too did their friendships.
“Back then, you practically knew everyone in the company,” John said. “We were all that close.”
For John, he recalled one memory in particular while remembering the fun he had with his old friend. It was Thanksgiving, and he and Clay were working at HQ, but on different units.
“We started picking on each other and he ended up with soap in his eye. He ended up getting a call, but could not see. He was trying to clear his eye while responding to the call,” John joked.
Luckily, that was not a transport and they returned to the station where he was able to flush out his eye.
“It may or may not have been me that threw soap on him, aiming for his hair,” John siad.
Clay has watched and admired John through the years, seeing him grow in his profession. It has then led to a newfound respect for his old middle school friend.
“John was and is a very smart paramedic when he was in the field,” Clay said. “Very good at what he did, and he was highly regarded for his superior medical skills.”
Following his brief time as a paramedic, John went to work in dispatch. At the time, he was the only one dispatching most of the night. “Yes, only one dispatcher back then,” John said.
He became a supervisor, then went to work in Information Systems, working his way up to CAD/GIS Manager in December 2020.
On many occasions, John said Clay would show up to visit. And as soon as he would, it would get very busy, to the point where he would help answer incoming phones. He eventually told him (jokingly) not to visit anymore.
“This would happen every time he stopped by,” John said. “Kinda weird.”
They continued to work together. John said they had a very good working relationship and he will always cherish his friendship.
“There were other good times we had, that just can’t be published,” John said.
“That will be for another time.”
The number of high-profile adversities they both have supervised over the years are too many to count, but each is credited for being a solid resource during all of them.
For Clay, personally in his position, he noted the tremendous amount of load on his shoulders at times. But having John supervising and managing over the single most important technical portion of the communications centers (CAD) was reassuring for him, as many others too.
“We always knew what the other one wanted as far as performance and goals in our department,” Clay said. “I never had to worry about the quality of work.”