by Gordon Nary
Gordon: Where did you attend University, what was you major, and what course did you enjoy most, and why did you enjoy it?
John: I graduated from Loyola Marymount University in 1972 with degrees in English and Communication Arts. I went on to get my California Teachers Credential in 1974, and then two years of study toward a Master's in Religious Studies. Professor Bob O'Gorman, one of LMU's visiting professors, influenced my studies. He taught the scripture courses in the Master's program. His captivating teaching style birthed my interest in studying Greek and the Church Fathers.
Joanne, my wife, and I learned early to accept and follow, as best we could, God's interventions and opportunities. We were constantly amazed at God's graciousness and abundance. We learned this early in our studies and in the people we met.
Joanne and I moved to Colorado in 1976, following our now good friend Bob O'Gorman and his lovely family. He took an assignment at the Denver Seminary for the Archdiocese of Denver. Joanne and I took work with the Church in youth ministry and ended up working for the Archdiocese of Denver, and eventually for the new Diocese of Colorado Springs (carved out of Denver) publishing the Catholic newspaper, "The Catholic Herald," for the next 25 years.
I have continued scripture studies over all these years from the initial spark provided by those classes at LMU. Again, God's presence astounded us in all that work with Church ministers, both ordained and lay. What a wonder all those people were, and we got to write about them and become their friends.
Gordon: What are some of your favorite memories at Loyola Marymount University?
John: I wanted to be a writer, and the theatre programs and film/TV coursework introduced me to the joy of storytelling. Many of those friends made in both production and editing are still close 50 years later. That space of friends brought Joanne and I together. We met in 1970 and were married near LMU in 1973 after Joanne graduated with her BA.
Gordon: What were your primary responsibilities when you were Vice President of marketing at Storage Solutions?
John: I formed a documentation firm with Joanne called "TextPros" in 1980. By 1988 I was writing technical manuals for Hughes Aircraft and Digital Equipment Corporation while we were publishing the Catholic papers (we also had picked up the newspaper for the Diocese of Pueblo by then) and raising our children. We needed added income because our jobs with the Church weren't able to meet our financial needs. We didn't want to quit our work with the Church. My writing was constantly being honed in journalism and marketing/technical papers, but not yet on storytelling and scripture reflections. Joanne began a side business in real estate renovations at that time.
In 1991, I was hired to run the marketing operation for Storage Solutions Specialists, which then replaced my freelance documentation work at TextPros. Our fledgling group of six partners puts together a boxed solution for mid-sized, Fortune 5000 companies. The product performed an automated backup and data protection solution, streamlining data center tasks into one centralized appliance. The product was an immediate success. We formed a separate company called STORServer to produce the appliance. My business skills, in both management and sales/marketing, pushed me into the position of President & CEO by 2000.
Gordon: What was the challenge that you faced as President & CEO of STORServer?
John: I still had big dreams to be an author, but the job took over everything else I was doing. I had little time to write and run a large company. Joanne took over TextPros and the Catholic newspapers. I worked at night helping her with desktop publishing. I wrote snippets of things, mostly poetry and short stories at night. My CEO job grew to almost 50 employees, still a small national enterprise, but time-consuming.
God's presence was central to everything I did in that job, and I formed a holy alliance with two of the partners in our efforts to make decisions that fostered healthy lives for our employees. It was a rare experience. Because I was the face of the company I encountered some pushback for putting my faith into such a public part of the job, but my two cohorts in faith (Evangelical fellas themselves) made the presence of God a reality.
Not all was well with me, though. Managing so many Type A personalities at a technical firm like STORServer (engineers and techies do not always work well with others) was exhausting. The work eventually took its toll. I suffered a medical setback, contracting a rare adult-onset Type 1 Diabetes, hospitalization, and a 4-8 month recovery. I stepped back from being CEO and became the "fix it" guy, revamping our support organization (mainly by letting the guys do their job), and then took back responsibilities in marketing and sales. I retired in 2015 from STORServer as the sales support engineer.
Gordon: What work did you and your wife do at JFP Construction?
John: Besides all the other massive jobs Joanne and I performed, we took on renovations of houses. We'd spend 15 years fully renovating our home in Manitou Springs, a 100-year-old 3,300 sq. ft. house where we ultimately raised all six of our children. Following God's lead, most of the time, we were presented with lots of opportunities to help people. Along the way, we made good money and worked hard. We both enjoyed the experiences and built up a retirement nest egg. Remarkably, we did this all while running computer and newspaper businesses and raising a family.
We still own the construction company, but it's finally going quiet now as we've crossed into our 70s. We finished our last two big projects just this year — a four-story castle conversion into 4 condos, and a duplex re-plat and renovation.
Gordon: What projects are you working on as Owner of TextPros?
John: Our goal was to eventually be self-publishers. I tried over 40 years to be published, yet finding no takers on my fiction and non-fiction religious manuscripts TextPros seemed a terrific vehicle for our writing projects. We produced walking tour books and a popular grief book by Joanne. We were about to expand to my fiction and poetry this year when my last gasp at finding a traditional publisher paid off, by the grace of God.
Wipf & Stock, the publishers of "Snarl," are wonderful to work with. They publish religious works by up-and-coming authors, which is rare to find in a traditional publisher. The publication of Snarl by Wipf allows me to concentrate on being a writer rather than work in every arena of the book's production. Wipf becomes a complementary partner in an area that needs their expertise. God knows what he is doing!
Gordon: Please share with our readers some information about Homeless Catholics?
John: The Homeless Catholic web presence, www.homelesscatholic.com, morphed from a book I wrote for my six children called "Confessions of a Homeless Catholic: a father's confession and testimony." I wrote the book to deal with the problem of raising six children who decided not to become Catholics when they grew into adults. I tackled every arena where I made mistakes as a father, and I countered what I consider to be misinformation and propaganda from their university educations and the secular society which they joined.
I shared that book with several friends who were also having difficulties with their children leaving the Catholic faith and indeed deciding against any faith. We belonged to a weekly men's group which seemed to deal with a similar problem across parenting experiences. The goal of the Homeless Catholic book was to address the creedal truths of our faith and how they apply to God's presence in our lives. The Trinity, the holy communion of Saints, the Church as Catholic, the Mother of God, and every other dogmatic axiom of our faith can be addressed through scriptures.
Since we meet during the week, our scripture references follows the readings for one day a week. This aids in the scriptures that we select to speak on, knowing we must be faithful to Church teaching and conscious always of the Holy Spirit's guidance.
In the beginning, Steve Hall and Deacon Andy McKee presented all the talks. Eight years ago, I was invited to help with the talks in our group. We officially began posting reflections at that time to make sure all the men in our group had access to the talks. I had a Homeless Catholic website that we used for the posting, and the fellas began to associate our framework as an organization around that effort to both confess and testify our faith, specifically to our children and families.
We've since grown to 35 men in the group and over 150 men and women on our reflection's mailing list. Six of us are now contributors to the posted weekly reflections. We're not sure where the group goes next, realizing God is in charge, but the book at the source of our work is likely to become published in the next few years. We're all hopeful about that.
Gordon: What will your next book be about?
John: I have written a book entitled "Dry Eyes" that originated from a story I told my children back in 1997. I wrote the first manuscript in 2002, updated it in 2005, and began a final edit after Snarl was published in June.
It's the story of a self-centered single man who abandoned his first marriage and child early on and is struggling to form any new relationships in his new mid-life. The story centers on his discovery of a mountain town in Colorado called Dry Eyes which is a hidden gem of misfits and odd mountain folk. He ends up taking his job as a poetry magazine editor (very bad poetry, by the way) out of the city and works remotely. He gets involved in the intimate details of a town on its last legs.
August Wooten, the selfish protagonist with abandonment issues, sees every part of his life challenged and adapted. He forms deep friendships and comes to grips with his Catholic faith through a marginalized priest sent to Dry Eyes and forgotten by his bishop. The two become great friends and August are both awakened and healed. Residents of the town, several of who die over the years while August is there, from accidents, disease, and old age, play a large part in August's awareness of the fragility of life and God's way of using everything for his purpose.
Gordon: Thank you for an exceptional interview.