A Heartfelt Warning

June 25th, 2009 by Editor

Florida Veteran Urges Installers to Take Care Before It’s Too Late

On the jobsite, a film installer progresses from one pane to another, installing a protective layer designed to block the sun’s harmful rays. In this way, he surfs along the edge of extreme danger, often without even recognizing it.

Herschel Johnson is a veteran of the window film industry. Now 56 years of age, he spent thirty years in the Southeast performing automotive, residential and commercial installations. One could argue that he has had one of the best “offices” the world has to offer. Johnson worked for four years installing window film in condos up and down the Atlantic coast of Florida, enjoying some of the best views from New Smyrna to Velona Beach. He also worked in the Caribbean. But while Johnson spent anywhere from eight to 12 hours a day installing a product designed to protect the interiors and inhabitants of these premier properties, he failed to protect the most precious of all—himself.

In October of 2006, Johnson had a two- by 12-inch area of his back removed that was an inch in depth. New York University hospital diagnosed him with Melanoma, otherwise known as skin cancer.

“Guys that have been hanging [film] for years typically think about repetition injuries, like shoulders and carpal tunnel,” explains Tim Foley, Johnson’s nephew. “Working eight to ten hours a day, [hanging film] overhead lends to a big upper body workout.”

Foley says his uncle’s condition is now terminal. When Johnson worked up and down the Florida coast, installing film in unprotected spaces, he failed to wear sunscreen.

Johnson worked some of the most prestigious projects the window film world has to offer. One of his first big jobs included the Florida state senate building in 1997. In 2002 he began installing bomb blast protection for CHB Industries in Smithtown, N.Y. Among the projects he handled for CHB were: the Reagan Office Building in D.C., the New York Stock Exchange building, Bear Stearns, AIG, Deutsche Bank, Morgan Stanley, the Holocaust Museum, the Native American Museum, Watergate and the Clinton Office Building in Harlem, N.Y. to name a few. He also worked on the White House Executive Office Building and the Federal Courthouse in Arlington, Va. In late 2008, Johnson opened his own shop, The Film Crew in Palatka, Fla. But shortly thereafter, he began exhibiting odd behavior, such as dropping things on the job, frequent headaches and even seizures. In April 2009, cancer reappeared in Johnson’s body, this time in the form of metastatic brain cancer. An MRI revealed numerous small lesions, scattered throughout his brain.

As Johnson faces this terminal situation, he has a message for his fellow window film installers.

“He said he wants to make installers aware,” Foley says. “His message is, ‘Throw on some sunscreen, dumbass.’” And Johnson follows this advice with the following: “Everyone thinks it won’t happen to them.”

Johnson currently lives in Lake Como, Fla., with his wife of five years, Flor Aponte, and her daughter, whom he adopted, Natalia Aponte. Our thoughts go out to this window film veteran and his family.

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  1. Herschel is the greatest! His part in CHB’s success can never be underestimated. We still miss him hanging with us in NYC! Carol

  2. I met Herschel at his shop in Palatka a couple of months ago. He is one fantastic human being! I’m looking forward to meeting up with him again. I could tell he is good people! Hang in there my friend!

  3. Herschel was a customer of mine for years and is still a good friend. The news of his situiation is a shock since Herschel always seemed invulnerable to any damage personally. I can only hope the diagnosis is wrong and if anyone can beat it, Herschel will be the one. Go with God, either way.

    Nick Routh

  4. Condolences to Herschel Johnson.

    I would not have thought of communicating to our installers the risk of cancer from solar exposure when applying window film..

    In respect of Herschel, I will convey his exact words when communicating this to installers:
    “Throw on some sunscreen, dumbass.”
    “Everyone thinks it won’t happen to them.”

  5. I have had the pleasure over working with Herschel on several occasions throught the years. There is no doubt that this a temendously talented man. In fact, he is THE most talented installers that I have worked with in my 23 years in the industry!!! Hanging film is not an ego contest, it is a business. Herschel, my friend, you have handled the most demanding installations that anyone could ever imagine with the greatest professionalism and dededication that anyone could even imagine. You are truly a hero to us all to have achieved what you have!!! You deserve every peaceful content that the lake, the house and your family will bring you! You have indeed done well!! God be with you!!

  6. Herschel hired me in 2006 when he worked for CHB Industries in New York. Herschel’s experience and technical knowledge with not only window film, but security anchoring is second to none. Herschel always shared his knowledge with me and I am thankful that I met him and was able to work with him. All who know Herschel know that he is a unique person, a real character and a man’s man. I as well as his old crew are very sad of the news of Herschel’s health and our thoughts and prayers go out to him and his family…

  7. Herchel is definatly one of the legends in our industry a true class act. Herchel my thoughts and prayers go out to you and your family.

  8. I first met Herschel in 1996 when CHB sent me down to Florida to help show him “the ropes” to a new anchoring system. Between his film knowledge and sailing skills the man knew plenty about ropes. We worked together in D.C. and when he came up to NYC. and had a few fun nights and a lot of long days. And I want to thank him for his service to his country in and out of uniform. My thoughts are with him and his family. I’d like to finish with a quote I found from Oliver Wendell Homes “We must sail sometimes with the wind and sometimes against it, but sail we must and not drift nor anchor.” Good sailing Herschel

  9. One of the most talanted men I,ve ever had the privlage of knowing. Everything he touched turned to gold. I worked with him at “Herschels Custom Window Tint” in Palatka FL. in the early 90’s, 91 or 92 I think. We work together to add car stereo to his already successful window tint business. I am very sorry to hear about this. He will be missed, not only in the window tint world. When you get to the next world, You show them how it’s done.

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