That had to be the title for our May 2023 Employee of the Month – Jude Antrum! Jude referred to himself as a “universal employee” because he does all kinds of things in the shop. I’m getting ahead of myself. Let me tell you a little bit about him first.
Jude came to our appointment for the interview straight from the shop floor asking me to check if there were any smudges on this face because he didn’t want to look the fool. I assured him that he looked just fine and explained that I would be taking pictures while we were talking. He didn’t even pause. “Don’t let me see myself on some dating site, Marta!”
Jude was born in New Haven, CT, at Yale hospital. When he was around 10, his mom moved the family to Springfield, MA, because, “you know, New Haven was a little rough.” Looking to get out of the house and for a change of scenery, he moved to Florida when he was 18. He and his best friend set out from Springfield in Jude’s “Starsky and Hutch car – all white with big tires” – to join his best friend’s family in Ormond Beach. The car blew up in Maryland and they hitch hiked as far as Jacksonville!
Joining a new household proved a bit much for 18-year-old Jude, and he found himself dealing with a curfew. “I never had a curfew; my mom worked all night and anyway, my older sister would beat us up if we didn’t act right.” After a rough patch where he found himself on the streets of Daytona bouncing from house to house or spending nights at the Daytona Beach Pier, Jude’s large family (“We had to take a bus to go grocery shopping or do laundry!”) from up North started coming down to Florida. First his brother, Ed, then his mom, and soon the family unit was whole again. Like Jude said, “Once they started coming, we were all right. I’ve been working ever since.”
Jude began a steady stream of all kinds of work. In his words, “I drove trucks, I worked in warehouses making Tupperware, you name it. I was a counselor for teenage kids. I did a lot of stuff. I worked in grocery stores, worked in every restaurant in Daytona from Olive Garden to Outback to Stonewood. I was even a head chef over at a restaurant called Manjares on a marina in Daytona.” He built up a solid skill set that enabled him to start his own business as a landscaper. The business was successful and then Covid hit. Long story short, his brother, Ed, was working here at IA Stage at the time and after some brotherly pressure, got Jude to come over and meet with Mark. “He hired me on the spot.”
So, that’s Jude. He’s friendly, quick-witted, funny, and just a really sweet guy whose priority is his family. He’s quick to smile and quick to laugh, but more importantly, he’s quick to help colleagues, friends, and family. What you don’t see is that this man has been through it. Again, Jude’s own words, “After we lost my mom, it just seemed like it was one thing after another. I was [in the field with my landscaping business] and I was shot in the stomach [during an attempted robbery], went to hospital and they said ‘you’re going to live but we found cancer.’ I’m minus a kidney. I’m minus a bladder…but I’m not ready to lay down. When I’m ready, when I feel like I’ve had enough, I’ll go lay down. But for now, I’m still here and I’m still strong and I’m here to work. I like being around the guys. I like working.”
I think I can speak for all of us at IA Stage when I say that we like having you here, too, and we want you to stay as long as you want to.