SHENANDOAH — Sitting in his living room near a window looking out on Seventh Street, Jack Rinaca laments the decline of manufacturing in Shenandoah.
When his family moved into town in the 1920s, Shenandoah had a hosiery mill that employed 150 people.
But it closed, a scenario that’s played out repeatedly in Shenandoah and countless other small towns as manufacturing exited the U.S. for lower labor costs abroad in Mexico, China and other countries.
“Every town had its little textile plant,” said Rinaca, 88, a pillar in the community who’s served as a leader in a variety of capacities. “As time went on, all of these have left.”
Seeing to it that the people of Shenandoah have jobs is important to Rinaca, a former mayor and councilman, who retired as a chemical engineer from Merck and Co. in 1986.
Lending A Hand
Rinaca sat on the board of directors for the Shenandoah Industrial Committee for 41 years, including 27 as secretary, and spent more than three decades on the board of the Shenandoah Industrial Development Authority.
“He’s served on just about every board and committee. … He’s been instrumental in getting businesses here, too,” said Juanita Roudabush, Shenandoah assistant town manager.
In addition to Rinaca’s efforts supporting the business community, he also helped establish the Shenandoah Community Library, among other endeavors.
For all he’s accomplished, though, you won’t find Rinaca tooting his own horn.
When talking about his service in the Navy during World War II, he doesn’t mention the Purple Heart he received.
Attention isn’t something he seeks, so he nears blushing when talking about being honored last year as the grand marshal of the Shenandoah Memorial Day Festival and Parade.
“For some ungodly reason,” he says dryly, “they decided to name me grand marshal of the parade. That’s a big deal here in Shenandoah.”
Return To Roots
Rinaca was born in Shenandoah in 1925. His first name, though, isn’t actually Jack, a fact he didn’t learn until the first grade.
Named after his father, Unis, Rinaca was instead known by his nickname. But when he started first grade, students had to bring in their birth certificates, and his teacher pointed out that his name was not legally Jack.
But it’s a moniker that stuck over the years regardless.
A graduate of the former Shenandoah High School, Rinaca attended Florida Southern College and the University of Virginia following his time in the military.
He returned to the Valley in 1951 and began working at the Merck plant south of Elkton.
That same year, he married his wife, Billie, and the couple lived in Harrisonburg for a while before moving to Shenandoah.
After graduating from U.Va., Rinaca had looked around for other places to live, but found there weren’t any he liked more than the Valley.
“I suppose people come back to their beginnings,” he said, “probably if they feel they had a good experience there and can help solve local problems.”
Contact Jeremy Hunt at 574-6273 or email@example.com