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Loud and clear future for new grad Vincent Almanza

Vincent Almanza and his mom Jennifer at Hudson Hospital and Clinic, where Jennifer works as a registered nurse. (Hudson Star-Observer photo by Chuck Nowlen)

For Babe Ruth, it must have happened when he blasted his first sandlot home run.

For William Shakespeare, maybe it was the first time he wowed a damsel with a sonnet.

For 18-year-old Vincent Almanza, the eureka moment came when a friend showed him how to weld.

It happened three years ago. Almanza and welding have been inseparable ever since.

“I can’t get enough of it. It never gets boring to me,” the 2015 Hudson High School graduate explains.

“There are so many challenges with welding. You can make anything you want, basically, with anything made of metal. … I want to learn a new kind of welding every day.”

Beginning in August, Almanza will be doing just that when he enrolls in Wisconsin Indianhead Technical College’s 10-month associate-degree welding program.

“Then I will try to figure out what kind of welding job I want because there are so many different kinds –- arc welding, aluminum, underwater, acetylene. So many more,” he adds.

“I don’t like doing the same repetitive things, so I want a job where there’s lots of variety –- maybe small things one day and big things the next, like bulldozers or trucks. That’s what I want to do for a living.”

Which suits his mom Jennifer just fine.

“It’s always good to have a welder in the family,” the registered nurse at Hudson Hospital and Clinic smiles. “This is a huge deal for him. I’m so proud of him –- just the fact that he’s overcome so many challenges in his life.”

Did we mention that Vincent was born deaf? You wouldn’t know it right away by talking to him now.

After relying on classroom interpreters, sign language and high-powered hearing aids through age 11, he finally qualified for a Cochlear implant, a surgically inserted electronic device reserved for those who are profoundly deaf.

The first sound he heard: the faint ticking of a clock that even Jennifer couldn’t detect.

“Then he heard a bird, then water dripping,” she recalls. “I remember thinking, ‘Oh my God! He can hear!’”

Classroom interpreters remained in the picture for the rest of Vincent’s Hudson school days, but he’s been teaching himself how to live without them at WITC next year.

“You can’t have an interpreter on the job,” he notes. “So I’m going to try to do it myself.”

That doesn’t surprise Jennifer, who cites her son’s “amazing work ethic,” which she traces to her father, a former Air Force airman, ambulance driver and Chicago-area fire captain who now runs a farm in Fairchild, Wisconsin, where Vincent has spent countless summer days.

“Whenever he goes to the farm to help out, he gets up at a certain time, showers and has breakfast. Then he goes right to work,” Jennifer explains.

“Then he allows exactly 30 minutes for lunch, and it’s back to work. It’s hilarious because it’s so my dad.”

Vincent explains it this way: “I like to work until the job’s done.” He vows to become a firefighter too someday, “just because of my grandfather.”

“They save so many lives and have so many responsibilities,” he notes. “They really are heroes.”

Another hero: high-school industrial arts teacher Tom Klatt, who Vincent says “taught me a lot of life lessons. I really want to thank him a lot because he’s done so much for me.”

Meanwhile, Jennifer and the rest of their immediate family –- Vincent also has a 21-year-old brother Tony –- can count on seeing new welding projects regularly for the foreseeable future.

Vincent has been working on them every night after school all along -– separate from his class assignments and on his own time.

Recent masterpieces: a woodworked bench with a Chevrolet truck tailgate as its back, a wood-burning stove –- and a very special item for mom.

“He made this wonderful, delicate metal rose for me,” she says. “The projects he comes home with are unbelievable.”

Chuck Nowlen

Chuck Nowlen joined the Star-Observer team as a business, township and general-assignment reporter in April, 2014 after a three-decade career in newspapers and magazines, and as a newsroom-management/business-planning consultant.

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