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By Ernesto Portillo Jr.
January 11, 2015

James Krakowiak never understood the words “can’t do it.”

That’s what he was told when he sought a job in a newspaper’s pressroom, a place where huge presses, when rolling, make thunderous noise.

Krakowiak couldn’t work as a pressman because he is deaf, he was flatly told. He had to hear the presses and, if there were problems, hear the alarms.

But Krakowiak wouldn’t have any of it. When he was a student at the Arizona State Schools for the Deaf and the Blind, on West Speedway, he took a printing class, albeit with smaller machines. He fell in love with printing — the smearing of the ink on the skin, the smell of freshly printed paper and the sight of machines spitting printed words. He wanted to work as a printer.

And he did. On Friday, Krakowiak, known as “Jimbo” to his co-workers, retires from the Arizona Daily Star pressroom after 42 years.

“I told my friends I wanted to work in a big printing facility,” Jimbo said through his interpreter, Rusty Mitchell of Z Video Relay Service, which assists hearing-impaired people communicate via video.

He would not be denied. However, Jimbo did more than stay on a job that he was not supposed to have. He brought his co-workers into his deaf world.

“There are 10 people here who have learned basic sign language,” said Jimbo, who turns 66 the day before his final day keeping the presses rolling.

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