The parents of Roswell resident Mike Jurecek had to go through a special process to bring home their baby boy in 1952.
The couple had to get a bill passed by United States Congress to make Jurecek (pronounced jer-eck) their own.
Jurecek was adopted by his parents while his father, a master sergeant in the Air Force, was stationed in Japan.
Baby Jurecek was found by police at a train station in Ueno, Japan, on June 23, 1950. Police estimated the abandoned young boy was about 2 months old when he was discovered.
Not knowing the exact date the boy was born, what Jurecek refers to as the Japanese equivalent of the Children, Youth and Families Department assigned him a birth date: April 23, 1950.
It also assigned him a name: Minoru Nakajima.
Jurecek spent about a year in an orphanage before his adoptive parents, who believed themselves to be infertile, found him.
The family contacted former U.S. Rep. Antonio M. Fernandez of New Mexico and asked him to sponsor a bill allowing them to adopt their son. At the time, intercountry adoptions required approval by Congress.
Jurecek knows the bill number: HR 5297. He knows when it was passed: During the second session of the 82nd Congress.
And he knows that he’s glad things worked out.
“I had some of the best parents a person could ask for. They really cared for me, loved me a lot,” he said of his now deceased adoptive parents.
The rest is history — kind of.
Growing up a military brat, Jurecek has lived throughout New Mexico and Texas, and spent some time around the age of 10 living in Sidi Slimane, Morocco, with his family.
It later turned out his parents weren’t infertile, and in 1957, they gave birth to Jurecek’s younger brother.
While he’s moved frequently, Jurecek has a strong connection to the community of Roswell. He’s also among many “firsts” for the community.
He was one of the first students at Goddard High School when it opened. He was one of the first to play on the school’s football team.
He says he and his teammates “got our rear ends beat.”
Jurecek was also the first DWI compliance officer with the Chaves County DWI Program. The job is only one of a variety of careers to which Jurecek has given his time since he returned to Roswell after spending a few years in Houston, Texas, with his wife in his early 20s.
He spent 22 years as an officer with the Roswell Police Department, eventually making his way up to the position of deputy chief. He retired from the force in 1997.
After that, he did a stint in sales before taking on his position with the DWI program, which he did for eight years.
He now works for the Roswell Independent School District as the liaison for homeless families. In his current position, Jurecek ensures that district students whose families don’t have permanent homes have access to proper school supplies, clothing and other resources, and that they are able to stay at the same school all year long.
As diverse a set of careers as Jurecek has had, he says there’s a unifying theme.
“I just enjoy working with people,” he says. “For me, it’s rewarding when you have people that will thank you for doing your job.”
He notes that former defendants in the DWI program will approach him to tell him how he helped them turn their lives around.
“They’ll come up to me and say, ‘Yeah, you were my probation officer. I want to thank you for helping me get back on the right track,’” said Jurecek.
The children he now works with will approach him in the grocery store to thank him as well.
“That’s a great reward,” he says.
Jurecek has been married for 43 years to his junior high school sweetheart, Joy. The two met in seventh grade at Mesa Middle School.
They have two daughters, who also live in Roswell and work as teachers for the district. The women moved back to Roswell after their father had a heart attack in 2002.
Jurecek is happy to stay where he is and says he feels no pressing urge to visit Japan.
“A lot of people, they want to go back and see where they were born and try to find out more about their ancestry,” he says. “It’s not one of my top priorities.”
“I’m so fortunate because the opportunities that I’ve had by being brought to the United States and by having the family that I did to raise me and show me these opportunities. … If I was brought up in an orphanage in Japan, I feel sure I just wouldn’t have opportunities.”