But Somebody's Gotta Do It
By: Bob Shryock-Gloucester County Times Staff
Copyright (c) Gloucester County Times. All Rights Reserved.
July 22, 2008 Edition
July 22, 2008 Edition
"I drink a Scotch every day," says Jim McMenamin. "I'm gonna have a Scotch now."
And you couldn't blame him if some nights he had two. Or more.
Called "the world's oldest crime scene cleaner" by his boss, Andrew Yurchuck, the 84-year-old Oak Valley resident has supervised more than 700 bio-hazardous decontamination jobs for Glassboro-based Bio-Clean of New Jersey ("When tragedy strikes, Bio-Clean is there") in the last five years.
The work can be as unspeakably revolting as it is necessary, but McMenamin often draws the short straw and has adopted his own philosophical approach: "If it's not our blood, it doesn't bother us."
"You have to care for people," says Bio-Clean CEO Andy Yurchuck of the highly sensitive nature of his business. "There's nothing worse than a family having to clean up. We've never turned anyone away. We try to help people through their worst days and make their lives better."
A member of the American Bio-Recovery Association, Bio-Clean removes bio-hazardous substances left at the scene of accidents, homicides, suicides and natural deaths.
Technicians remove and disinfect for H.I.V., the virus that causes AIDS, hepatitis, tuberculosis, and other infectious pathogens.
McMenamin warmed up for the late-life assignment by being a Harbison's Dairies milkman for 23 years in the horse-and-wagon days and following that by being a Teamsters union president until retiring in 1968. Neither job was quite as traumatizing as cleaning up after a murder or suicide. (Yes, Jim knew Jimmy Hoffa. No, he doesn't know what happened to him.)
McMenamin became bored with his lengthy leisurely retirement, saying he "couldn't sit still."He learned the work "from scratch" and became fascinated with a job that clearly isn't meant for everyone. Or, for that matter, hardly anyone."You need a strong stomach and you need to be able to take strong odors," understates McMenamin. He has, well, over 700 stories, but many of them will remain untold. "Wherever there's work, we go.
And every job is a different job."McMenamin works "when needed," sometimes three days a week, sometimes seven, and finds himself essentially on call. He was in Newark last week, helping clean the apartment of a man who'd died a week earlier. "We needed two Dumpsters to get the junk out of there. But we do a thorough job."
"Jim can outpace most of the younger technicians and his work ethic is amazing," says Yurchuck, CEO of Bio-Clean. "He's missed only three days of work since he started five years ago. He's the kind of guy co-workers are happy to work with. He usually works with the younger, less-experienced technicians to show them bio-recovery techniques. Most of the newer ones can't believe how hard he works and ask him for advice daily. He brings wisdom to every job. Sometimes it's difficult to get him to take a break."
As forgettable as some of his jobs can be, McMenamin is mentally strong enough to deal with the work and loves Bio-Clean.
"Our main object is service," he says. "Andrew taught me what I know. He knows his stuff. He can see a spot on the wall. He's the most fabulous man I've ever worked for and never gets angry. It's the only company I know that worries more about its employees than making a profit."
Jim and Zoe have been married 63 years and have three children, three grandchildren and five great grandchildren. Jim calls her "a queen," and says she supports his less-than-traditional choice of octogenarian jobs "even though I drive her insane.
"It doesn't bother her. If I'm happy, she's happy."
And don't look for Jim to be heading back into retirement soon.
"I can go on forever," he says.
But every once in awhile, a Scotch helps.