When Greenporter Jason Vidivici arrives in Seattle Sunday as one of the leaders of an elite team that will restore the first presidential jet plane used by presidents Dwight Eisenhower, John Kennedy, Lyndon Johnson and Richard Nixon, it will be the culmination of a dream. The 29-year-old also hopes it will be the beginning of a new phase in his career.
But not so many years ago, Mr. Vidivici admits, his life was on a very different course — one that might well have left him jobless, perhaps in jail and certainly not on the path his late mother would have wished for him.
Jason Vidivici — now the owner of Detailing Inc., which operates throughout Long Island and in New York City, including Staten Island — was only 4 1/2 when his mother died of ovarian cancer.
“I grew up in an environment where it was more or less raising myself,” he said. He describes it as “an abusive household” and said his only good memories came from encouragement he received from his study hall teacher, Joan Dinizio of Greenport. But despite the interest she took in him, he dropped out of Greenport High School at age 15 and ran away from home.
“I made it as far as I could there,” he said of the high school. He admits he was hanging around “with the wrong crowd” and wasn’t on the road to success that his mother would have wished for him.
“Today, I’m living two dreams,” he said — one his mother’s and the other his own dream of a successful life.
He’s also giving back to his community by hiring other young men who appear to be drifting as he once was.
“I feel obligated,” he said of his efforts to put other young men to work with the hope of changing their lives the way he has changed his own.
For Mr. Vidivici, the turnaround started when he got a job washing and cleaning boats in the Hamptons.
“I discovered I had a knack for detailing,” he said. The plan with the woman who employed him was for him to someday take over the business. But a relative entered the picture and, obligated to hire him, she had to let Mr. Vidivici go.
With $150 in his pocket, he purchased some business cards and began offering his services to boat owners on Long Island’s East End. He began with a single boat and built the business to the point where he and his crew now service 300 to 400 boats each season. After six years in the business, he’s the second largest boat detailer on the North Fork, he said.
“I started buying one can of glass cleaner and one gallon of wax at a time,” he said. “It has just snowballed since then.”
He credits his mentor, Renny Doyle of Attention to Details Ltd. in Big Bear, Calif., for advancing his abilities in the business.
Through courses Mr. Doyle offered, Mr. Vidivici refined his own skills. And it was Mr. Doyle who tapped Mr. Vidivici to participate in the project that will involve 30 expert detailers in restoring Air Force One. The team members, chosen from more than 250 detailers trained by Mr. Doyle, will also restore a World War II B29 bomber. Both planes will be exhibited at Seattle’s Museum of Flight.
Team members have been communicating through webinars to plan their work so that when they arrive on site next week, they’ll be ready to start the job, which they expect can be completed within a week, Mr. Vidivici said.
Mr. Doyle had worked on Air Force One in 2003 and said, “It made my career.” To give a new team a chance to work on the original Air Force One plane is an opportunity to enhance their own careers, he said.
Mr. Vidivici, who has been detailing mostly boats and automobiles, said that expanding his expertise to planes is a direction that brings a new challenge and adds excitement to his career. He has worked on some planes at MacArthur Airport, he said, but none as large or famous as those on which he’ll be working next week.
“This is going to be a whole new experience for me,” he said.
What lies in his future? There’s talk about a forming a crew to detail the NASA space shuttle that just returned from its final mission to the International Space Station. Nothing is set yet, Mr. Vidivici said. But he definitely has his eyes on that prize assignment.