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Cabela's, 'Gift of a Day' grant 89-year-old's wish

The Chronicle Telegram

AVON — Albert Janosik lifts the laser gun with one hand and peers over the top, aiming carefully at a bear mount. He pulls the trigger and a small red dot hits the target.

He takes aim at a few more of the animal mounts on Cabela’s Conservation Mountain, a taxidermy display, using his other arm for support before getting too tired.

Janosik, 89, is dying.

The closest he gets to his beloved outdoors now is the Cabela’s catalog. So when Crossroads Hospice asked him what he wanted for the Gift of a Day program, Janosik chose a shopping spree at the outdoor retailer.

It was an unusual request for both the hospice and Cabela’s, but they decided to go with it and bring the catalog to life, giving Janosik an experience he wouldn’t forget.

Cabela’s staff greeted him at the door with an official Cabela’s shirt embroidered with his name, told him he would be promoted to manager during his time at the store and marketing manager Gary Gerrone proclaimed Wednesday as Albert Janosik Day.

“I’m very proud of the staff here and the way they’ve come up with ideas and turned this into a real celebration of what he really loved,” Gerrone said.

Janosik was under the impression he was just going to Cabela’s for a shopping trip.

When he walked in, the staff from each department presented him with gifts like an official Cabela’s Avon hat, sunglasses, Cabela’s fudge and nuts, a fishing lure and more.

Janosik’s face lit up as his aide put the official Cabela’s shirt over his own.

“I’m outdoorsy, and so is Cabela’s,” Janosik said of why he chose the store for his day. “I’ve been here only once, a week or two after the grand opening, because I didn’t want to get in the mess. The trouble is with Cabela’s is that it’s so big you can’t see it all in one day. You need a whole week.”

He was unfazed by the media attention for his trip to Cabela’s — nearly every TV station and newspaper in the Cleveland area came to document the outing.

“That will be a good for a change because usually I can’t get anything good on TV,” Janosik quipped.

He kept the jokes coming when one Cabela’s employee asked Janosik for a raise since he was the day’s manager.

“Yes. I’ll have you stand on a sheet of paper,” Janosik said, revealing his dry sense of humor.

Janosik’s daughter, Jackie Mertz, a graphic artist for The Chronicle-Telegram, smiled as she watched her dad in the spotlight. When Janosik left his home in Wellington to live at Crossroads, he had to give up many of the things he loved, Mertz said.

Just below the bear mount on Conservation Mountain was a bobwhite quail. Janosik spotted it immediately, and it brought to mind a memory of hunting and cooking the small birds.

“I’d parboil them, and then I’d fry them in melted butter, garlic and onion, and when they’re tender enough, I’d eat them,” Janosik said. “I maybe had three or four birds and I went through them and there was a pile of bones here. Well I ain’t got no more. I’m finished. I ate the meat. I’d go back over those bones about three, four times. That’s how good quail is.”

Ilona Rodgers, Gift of a Day coordinator at Crossroads Hospice, was blown away with what Cabela’s was able to put together in a short amount of time.

“When you get people with heart like the big ones here at Cabela’s, it can be pretty special,” Rodgers said. “We really couldn’t ask for anything better than this. They’ve really been amazing.”

Janosik grew up in Elyria where he dropped out of high school to help with his family’s farm on Murray Ridge Road, which cousins own now, and then he fought in the Korean War.

He got his GED in his 60s and moved to Wellington where he lived alone until a few months ago when he went to the hospice.

“I’m actually floored that all this is happening for my dad,” Mertz said. “I just thought he was coming here and he could get a few little things that he’d want.

“He’s soaking it up,” she continued. “He’ll talk about this for quite a while, I’m sure.”