A matter of time: Watchmaker Initiative provides skilled training for disabled vets

ODESSA — The 45-minute graduation ceremony was nearly done Friday when Jonathan Dunn’s muted phone buzzed.

The Smyrna resident answered shortly afterward and received a job offer to repair watches.

His time in the Veterans Watchmaker Initiative was already providing career possibilities.

“It’s the hardest thing I’ve ever done but well beyond worth it,” said the former Coast Guard member, who was joined by his wife and two children not yet old enough for school.

Three other veterans smiled brightly too after receiving diplomas from the only technical school of its kind nationally supporting honorably discharged veterans.

There’s a nationwide shortage of mechanical watch specialists, so quickly finding employment seem likely.

“I’m going to begin a job search,” Gumboro resident and Army veteran Jason Adams said. “I could see myself going to New York City or any other number of places.”

Program founder Sam Cannan and Swiss-trained watchmaker doggedly worked for seven years to start the school to assist disabled veterans who have an 83 percent unemployment rate.

Wife Pauline was with him every step and described as “the backbone of the operation” during closing remarks before approximately 80 onlookers.

Attempts to use sites in Kenton and Middletown failed before New Castle County Council and then-executive Tom Gordon donated the 3.7 acre property and commercial.

Of Cannan, emcee Dave Skocik said “He just kept pushing forward and wouldn’t take no for an answer. He was very specific about what he wanted.”

Mr. Cannan described the experience as a “long, long road” to seeing the fruition of his and others efforts.

Joining the veteran graduates were Ellendale resident Giancarlo LaRusso (Marine Corps) and Dover resident Don Morton (Air Force).

Mr. Morton plans to remain in the program to teach the incoming class his trade, and the dream is to eventually have 50 students in the program.

“The last 17 months were a lot of work but very enjoyable at the same time,” Mr. Morton said.

“It was all about meeting challenges, developing skills, making contacts and being introduced to the world that is watchmaking.”

With no interest in city living and desiring to stay close to home, Mr. LaRusso pictures himself at a nearby watch repair service center fixing Bulova products and other brands.

“From beginning to end it was an incredible experience,” he said.

Staff writer Craig Anderson can be reached at 741-8296 or canderson@newszap.com.

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