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Gheorge Tomoiaga loves his music, his new country and his job as a custodian at Gayle Middle School in Stafford County
Tomoiaga is married and also devoted to church, his school 'family,'
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Date published: 5/18/2010
He rolls his trash and recycle bins through halls crowded with middle-schoolers, many of whom greet him with grins and waves.
"Hello, George!" "Hi, George!" "George!"
"Hellohello!" he answers cheerfully, not pausing in his work.
Just about everyone at Gayle knows 51-year-old Gheorghe Tomoiaga--"George" now that he's an American--the enthusiastic custodian who's also a classical violinist and passionate supporter of his adopted country.
But while they've spoken to him in the hallways and enjoyed his occasional musical performances, few at Gayle have heard his life story--from his birth in Romania to what he calls his rebirth in the United States.
Tomoiaga's English is fluent but not perfect--it is, after all, his sixth language. But when vocabulary falls short, Tomoiaga makes his points with broad gestures and emphatic pronouncements.
Chief among them: He considers himself blessed by God to have had the chance to live and work in America and to become a citizen, which he did in 2007.
"I have my Holy Bible always with me," he says, holding up a copy printed in his native language. "And I have my social bible"--a copy of the U.S. Constitution, in English.
"The American Constitution is the model for around the world."
But it was not, he said, a big part of his education growing up in a rural area of Romania under communism.
He was born in 1958 to a family of practicing Christians--a precarious distinction in a society that valued conformity over conscience. The government, he recalls, limited the practice of faith, "but they can't control our hearts."
Early in his school years he was selected for musical training, and he learned violin and other instruments before graduating from a high school specializing in music.
'I WAS VERY OPEN'
He studied composition, conducting and music education the National University of Music in Bucharest, meeting with success there for three years.
But before his final year at the university, he recalls, an official sat him down and questioned him. Do you believe in God?
Tomoiaga simply answered "Yes."