A Heartfelt WarningJune 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.