Back in May, 1999, I was performing a daily ritual, surfing the Internet and visiting some familiar Web sites — sites which have a magnetic power over the frontal lobes of that gray matter called my brain. I always enjoy visiting one site in particular, the “official Web site” of the Grand Forks Herald (www.

I know you’re probably wondering why some metro Detroit writer has any interest in a North Dakota town that has no direct ties to my part of the globe.

As some of you may know, I have an affinity for Grand Forks, having visited it last year and written about the contractors who busted their butts to replace and rebuild homeowners’ furnaces and hot water heaters that were destroyed or damaged in the tragic Red River Flood of April 97.

I like to see what is happening in the town and keep my fingers crossed that such a devastating act of God never hits that region again. The town lost a big chunk of its population who chose not to return and they are still struggling to get back to the same population levels of the pre-flood days.

While browsing, I came upon a story of Darkos Sos, a Croatian refugee who left the turmoil of his country to find a new life in America. Sos sought, and got, a sponsor in Grand Forks who was looking for an experienced plumber. Tom McGurran, owner of Economy Plumbing Inc., hired Sos, who arrived in Grand Forks two days before the big flood.

McGurran told the Grand Forks Herald that sponsoring Sos “was the right thing to do. He was a plumber by trade in Croatia but hadn’t been able to find employment here as a plumber. No plumbing company had been willing to step out of their way to take him on.”

In a time when skilled tradespeople are at a premium, it is ironic that those who were most eager to work, like Sos, were being turned away. Maybe it was the uncertainty of their background, the language barrier, or some other unknown reason.

Whatever the case, Sos has turned out to be an exceptional worker. McGurran added, “He just struck me as a guy who’d be there at the crack of dawn every day and not want to go home. And that’s how he turned out.”

I wanted to write a first-hand story about Sos but he is not comfortable talking about himself and politely declined.

But what I do know about him is enough to suggest that maybe you, as hvac contractors, know of someone like Sos, who has just relocated to your neighborhood. If you don’t, there are always Refugee Resettlement Coalitions like the one in Grand Forks.

Workers who are willing to work hard and learn our trade are a vanishing breed. Maybe Darkos Sos can be an inspiration for owners to seek out a “new” working class of refugee workers.