80-year-old climbs Willis Tower to help install antennas

Chicago's Willis Tower

Age is no barrier for John Rukavina, nor apparently are heights.

Now 80 years old, the octogenarian recently donned his hard hat and laced up his Red Wing boots before ascending the ladder to climb one of the tallest structures in Chicago – the Willis Tower.

This is nothing new for Rukavina. He’s been doing it for decades. He has actually been above the clouds on Chicago’s tallest skyscraper and The Pilot says, Rukavina is only semi-retired since he will still climb on high-profile jobs that pique his interest.

“It’s safer to be on that antenna than it is to jaywalk on LaSalle Street at noon,” Rukavina said of dangling more than 110 stories above the Loop.

The skyscraper is somewhat of an old friend to Rukavina who scaled the building in the 1970s to help install the original antennas. Back then the building – which was the world’s tallest at that time – was known as the Sears Tower. He actually helped to place the American flag on the pinnacle of the structure.

“When you’re looking down on all of it, it’s just beautiful,” Rukavina said, adding that life is boring and you “gotta have something to do.”


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