Mike Janis: The Most Interesting Man in Hockessin

by Sasha Reddy

When asked to participate in HAC’s magazine, Mike Janis, Sr.’s response was two-fold. Though he was happy to offer his time to be interviewed, he did so with a tinge of curiosity and skepticism. What was so special about him that people would care enough to read about? “I’m just a printer,” he’d note repeatedly. Turns out Mike has lived a more colorful life than he gives himself credit for.

Mike the Pressman

“I have been a printer since I was 16 years old,” Mike says. “That’s all I could do, and I was good at it.” He began working as a pressman right out of high school, working full-time for a few years before joining the Navy. On return from active duty, Mike continued working in the printing industry. In the mid-80’s, Mike went on to purchase and run his own print shop in New Castle – the Reproduction Center, Inc. – now better known as RCI. “I was the boss for 20 years,” Mike recalls. “Made all the blueprints in Delaware.” In addition to construction companies, his clients ran the gamut from universities to hospitals to prisons. Though Mike retired and passed the torch as president and new owner onto his son Mike Janis, Jr. in 2007, RCI is still in operation. The business continues to grow and expand its offerings as technology and printing methods evolve.

Besides his continued role as the president of RCI, you may know Mike Janis, Jr. as one of HAC’s long-time group fitness instructors!

Mike the veteran

Mike enlisted in the Navy, serving four years of active duty as a lithographer with top-secret clearance, an admiral’s phone talker, and shore patrol. He continued serving our country with an additional 16 years as a Naval Reservist, retiring as Chief Petty Officer.

Mike the soccer referee

Mike’s involvement with soccer started with the coaching of his children, eventually moving on to referee at the local and state levels. He volunteered as a referee in the Special Olympics, the Men’s World Cup in DC, and various other competitions. Mike held many titles in soccer associations, but his most significant role was being the Competition Director for DC United from 1996 to 2005.

Mike the “Plant Guy”

Since his retirement, Mike has taken a keen interest in gardening. He became curious about botany when he began taking college courses later in life. Many colleges, including the University of Delaware, offer free classes for individuals ages 60 and up. Mike never obtained a degree beyond his high school diploma, and after many years in the printing industry, he was ready to spend more of his time learning about other things that really interested him.

At UD, Mike met John Frett and Robert Lyons, both of whom taught in the agriculture department and oversaw the botanical gardens on campus for many years. It was actually through John that Mike began volunteering to help with the upkeep of the gardens himself. With Mike as the clear prankster of the group, the three hit it off in and out of the classroom. “We have been friends ever since then,” he smiles. John, Bob, and Mike still see each other regularly, whether volunteering in the botanical gardens, meeting for lunch, or chatting in HAC’s hot tub.

Mike the Stroke Survivor

On an otherwise typical New Year’s Day several years back, Mike was taking a spin class taught by his son. After the workout, Mike and Bob decided to meet for a dip in the hot tub. “All of a sudden, Bob says to me, ‘Hey Mike, you’re not talking right!'”. Without realizing it himself, his speech began to slur, and half his mouth began turning downward, two telltale signs of a stroke. He was promptly taken to the hospital.

The stroke left Mike aphasic – his ability to communicate was significantly diminished. It has taken years of speech therapy and “homework” from the therapists assisting him to regain many basic skills and vocabulary.

Before the stroke and as a volunteer, Mike was working with interns at the University of Delaware Botanical Gardens teaching them a lot about machinery and gardening. He was unable to continue. Additionally, Mike was an assessor for professional referees, but post-stroke, he could not continue in this role, either. “So now,” he says, “there is no soccer in my life after forty years.”

Still, Mike is grateful that aphasia was the extent of his symptoms. “I volunteer at West Chester University,” he says. “I have students to help me learn how to talk. When I’m there, I see a lot of folks that have strokes. I gotta tell you, I’m pretty lucky. They can’t talk, they can’t drive, they can’t move.” Despite the many opportunities he lost after his stroke, he could still easily manage driving himself to the gym, working out, and hopping in the hot tub; only his speech was significantly impacted. You could have watched Mike at HAC every day and never know the obstacles he’s had to overcome or the challenges he still faces daily.

Mike the TV Star

Mike didn’t let his stroke stop him from pursuing new hobbies, either. “The fun thing I did was be an extra in House of Cards,” he shares. “That was so much fun.” Mike first got involved in acting after a conversation with a friend who works as an extra for a Philly-based production company. “She says, ‘Mike, you’re a good-looking guy. Why don’t you model?’…So for some reason, I got into House of Cards.” He’s made brief appearances in several episodes of seasons five and six of the show as a senator, a victim, and other roles. Mike has also appeared in several advertisements during his acting career.

Mike and his wife, Jo Ann, have been married 59 years. Besides Mike, Jr., they are also parents to Michelle and Jonathan.

Mike enjoys pulling people’s legs, even (and maybe especially) when they don’t want them to be pulled. He seems to get a kick out of finding the most formal, straight-and-narrow person in a room just to push their buttons a bit. But he also looks at life through a lens of modesty and thankfulness for what he has rather than regret for what he doesn’t. “You know, life is a big deal,” he concludes. “I have a nice car. I have enough money. If I want to go somewhere, we go.” His gratitude for life is overflowing, almost more than his humor and cheeky nature.

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