Jaime Garcia-Perez, 48, a member of our union for more than 15 years out of Local 23 (Santa Cruz, Calif.), passed away Sept. 3 from complications of COVID-19. He was an operator for the Santa Cruz Metro ParaCruz.
“Jaime, who worked at ParaCruz for nearly 17 years, had an unwavering work ethic and the utmost respect from everyone here at Metro. He was an integral part of ParaCruz from Day One,” GCA Vice General Chairperson Nathanael Abrego and General Chairperson James Sandoval said in a letter to membership. “A hard-working man and full of passion, integrity, and respect. When the workday got hard, we leaned heavily on the ‘Jaime Factor’ because he counted as two drivers. He was that good. You can always count on him to ensure our riders got to their destination on time.
“Jaime was loved by all who knew him. He will be missed.”
Brother Garcia-Perez is survived by his wife of 25 years, Dawn; daughter, Madison; and son, Kaden.
Local 1261 in Atlanta is mourning the loss of a longtime local chairperson. Joshua Allen Morstad, 39, passed away Sunday, July 11, 2021, three days after he was injured in an automobile accident while traveling home from work.
Brother Morstad was a loyal member of our union for 20 years, local chairperson of LCA-169A (Central of Georgia) since May 2015 and an engineer for Norfolk Southern.
“Josh was loved, respected, a friend to all, and will be missed by his family, friends and co-workers,” General Chairperson James E. Stewart Jr. of GCA-169 wrote.
Brother Morstad enjoyed being outdoors, hunting, fishing, golf and playing sports with his children. He had a fierce love for his family and always made sure they were cared for. He is survived by his wife, four sons and an unborn son who is due Sept. 7, 2021. Other survivors include his parents, brother and in-laws as well as many cousins, nieces and nephews, aunts and uncles, and extended family and friends.
In his last selfless act, Brother Morstad was an organ donor and gave of himself so that others may live.
SMART Transportation Division extends its deepest condolences to Brother Morstad’s family, friends and to Local 1261 in this time of painful loss.
Brother Karl Middlemas, 62, of Local 807 (Tucson, Ariz.) – a member of our union for more than 13 years – died when the crew van he was being transported in collided with a tractor-trailer late on July 6.
Brother Middlemas hired on in 2007 and most recently served as a conductor for Union Pacific. He had completed his shift July 6 and was en route back to Tucson from Nogales when the van was struck at 11:24 p.m. local time on Interstate 19 south of Tucson. He was killed instantly in the crash.
He enjoyed working on and restoring cars, especially classic Mopars.
Additional details on a memorial will be updated when received.
Brother Carlisle ran for political office in 2018, narrowly losing a race for the Arizona State Senate, District 6 seat by a little more than 1,700 votes to a Republican incumbent. He also was a minister, small business owner, a city councilman and most importantly, the husband to Sandy and father to Emma and Abbey.
“Wade was very passionate about selfless service to his community,” Arizona State Legislative Director Scott Jones said. “One of his most-impressive qualities was how he kept a very calming demeanor when talking with constituents about issues they were very passionate about.”
Brother Carlisle is survived by Sandy, his wife of 22 years, his two daughters, his mother; two brothers; and a number of nieces and nephews.
A viewing and services will be 10 a.m. Saturday, May 8, at First Baptist Church of Holbrook, Ariz. Interment will be at Burton Cemetery in Show Low, Ariz. at 4 p.m. Donations may be made to Youth For Christ of Holbrook online or by check written to Youth For Christ with 31045 in the memo line which can be given to a YFC leader or Pastor Nathan Heller at the service.
The SMART Transportation Division is mourning two union brothers who have died in recent weeks because of COVID-19.
Member Thurman Wheeler, 47, of Local 1348 (Centralia, Wash.) passed away on April 30 after being hospitalized for nearly two weeks with the virus. He was a Union Pacific conductor on the Portland east to Hinkle, Ore., pool.
“Thurman was liked and loved by all, and his loss is being felt very hard here in Portland,” said member Jeff Cubley of Local 1574. “He was an excellent person to work with, and he worked his tail off to provide for his family.”
Condolences also can be sent to Brother Wheeler’s wife:
19945 NE Clackamas Court
Portland, OR 97230
SMART Transportation Division Local 225 (Bellevue, Ohio) is mourning the passing of its president, Jason Ruffing, from COVID at age 40 on April 21.
Brother Ruffing was the local’s president for more than six years, served as LCA-687C secretary and was a past trustee of the local. He hired out with Norfolk Southern as a conductor in 2003 and was a certified remote control operator before becoming an engineer.
“Jason was well respected from his peers and the membership,” Local Chairperson Michael Bishop said. “Jason absolutely enjoyed helping anyone whether they needed it or not. He was the type of guy who would drop what he was doing to come help you out at any time. Jason will be missed dearly by his railroad brothers and sisters. Godspeed, Jason.”
President Ruffing loved to cook and grill during the local’s annual picnic, and never shared the secret ingredients of his special recipe spice mix.
A favorite pastime was camping at Tall Timbers campgrounds in Port Clinton, Ohio, and he taught CCW classes in his spare time, his obituary stated.
He served as a volunteer firefighter in Willard and Attica, was a supporter of Second Amendment rights and of the rights and freedoms we all have as Americans.
Brother Ruffing is survived by his parents, sisters, brothers and a number of other relatives.
The SMART Transportation Division offers its heartfelt condolences to the families of Brother Wheeler and Brother Ruffing, to their union brothers and sisters in Locals 1348 and 225 and to all those who knew them.
Buddy Lee Strieker, an officer of Local 219 (Hannibal, Mo.) for the vast majority of his 24-plus years with our union, died as a result of a switching accident on April 7 in Louisiana, Mo. He was 56 years old.
Brother Strieker was vice local chairperson of LCA-001A and the secretary/treasurer of his local for more than two decades. A trainman/brakeman for BNSF, he also served as an LCA secretary and as a delegate for his local at the Second SMART Transportation Division Convention in 2019.
An investigation has been launched by the National Transportation Safety Board into Brother Strieker’s death with a member of the TD National Safety Team participating.
Brother Strieker was a veteran of the U.S. Army. He is survived by his wife of 34 years, Lisa; his son, Matthew; a granddaughter; two step-grandchildren; three brothers; two sisters and other relatives.
“Away from work, Buddy loved being outside and visiting the family farm,” his family wrote in Brother Strieker’s obituary. “Buddy had a green thumb and enjoyed working in his garden where he grew tomatoes, cucumbers, jalapeños, and banana peppers. A wonderful cook, Buddy made the most delicious cheesecakes, birthday cakes, and soups.”
Tony Wyman, a union brother out of Local 445 (Niota, Ill.) remembered on an online memorial page how he was mentored by Brother Strieker after hiring on as a BNSF conductor.
“Buddy … told me ‘as long as you’re with me you’ll be OK,’ ” Wyman wrote. “I’m heartbroken that he is gone! Buddy had a story or a joke every time he went to work! People of the BNSF family in Quincy lost a legend …and I mean a serious legend!”
The SMART Transportation Division offers its deep condolences to Brother Strieker’s family, friends and to his Local 219 brothers and sisters for the loss of this stalwart and dedicated member of our union.
SMART Transportation Division Local 934 member Curtis A. Deines, 52, a member of our union for more than 20 years, died before dawn on the morning of March 19 after the SUV he was being transported in was involved in a head-on collision with another vehicle on U.S. Highway 2 near Ravenna, Neb.
The driver and three other rail workers in the SUV that Deines was riding in were transported for treatment, as was the driver of the other vehicle involved in the accident, according to the Star-Herald of Scottsbluff, Neb. Deines passed away at the scene of the accident, the Buffalo County Sheriff’s Department stated in an accident report.
“He will be greatly missed here in Alliance,” said Local Chairperson Wendie Henderson of the Nebraska local.
Born in Torrington, Wyo., Brother Deines was a hall-of-fame athlete from his time as a center on the Chadron State College football team. He graduated college in 1996 with a degree in education.
He then entered into service with the Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railroad in the maintenance of way department and then transferred into train service as a conductor.
Great sources of pride and joy for him were watching his son, Colin, and daughter, KayLeah, succeed in life and becoming a grandpa, his family wrote in his obituary.
“Curt was loved by all and will be greatly missed for his big heart and infectious laugh,” his family wrote. “The role Curt played in each of our lives will never be forgotten.”
Brother Deines is survived by his wife, Sonya; his son, Colin Deines, and Colin’s girlfriend, Catie Williams; daughter, KayLeah King, and her husband, Robert; two grandchildren; his parents; his sister, Staci John, and her husband; two nieces; and a number of in-laws and other relatives.
A private memorial service is scheduled for March 27.
Norman “Norm” Patterson Jr., 52, of Lubbock, Texas, vice local chairperson of LCA-020 and a member of Local 9 (Slaton, Texas), passed away Jan. 5 after a battle with cancer.
A member of our union since 2006, Brother Patterson was a conductor for BNSF, and he had served as a vice local chairperson since 2014.
“He was very involved in his union and was always there to help his fellow brothers,” his family stated in his obituary. “If you were lucky enough for Norm to call you his friend, you were his true friend for life.”
Brother Patterson took great pride in his railroad job, his family wrote.
A memorial gathering to remember Brother Patterson is to occur in July. He is survived by his wife of almost 30 years, Brenda, and two sons, Austin and Tristan. He was preceded in death by his son, Hunter Ryan, who passed away in 2016 as a result of a car accident.
SMART Transportation Division offers its sincere condolences to Brother Patterson’s family, his brothers and sisters in Local 9, the SMART-TD members he was proud to represent in LCA-020, and to all those who knew him.
Our union lost another member late last month in an accident.
Tyrone Davis, 40, of Local 584 (Meridian, Miss.), passed away the morning of Dec. 23 in Tupelo, Miss., after an on-the-job accident.
Known as “Mr. T” by co-workers, he had been a SMART-TD member since April 2018 and had about 10 years of seniority as a conductor for Kansas City Southern Railroad.
“I trained him — he was a good guy,” Local Chairperson and Secretary & Treasurer Timothy Dallas said.
The National Transportation Safety Board is investigating Brother Davis’s death, which occurred after he was riding a tank car. SMART-TD union officers are involved in leading the investigation of the incident.
The fatality was the fourth on-the-job death of a member of our union in 2020.
Brother Davis leaves behind a wife and children. Dallas said that members of the local are donating money to assist Brother Davis’s survivors.
Services are scheduled 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. Jan. 16, 2021, at Union Star Church Cemetery, 5378 Waverly Road, West Point, MS 39773.
Brother Miguel “Mike” Gaitan, 64, an active SMART Transportation Division member out of Local 1241 (Richmond, Calif.), passed away Friday, December 11, 2020, from COVID-19.
Brother Miguel Gaitan of Local 1241 in Richmond, Calif., passed away Dec. 11 from COVID-19. He was 64 years old.
An engineer with BNSF, he joined our union in February 1995.
“Fellow employees state that Mike was hard-working, respected and kind,” California State Legislative Director Louis Costa said. “He always made railroad get-togethers with his union brothers and sisters a priority.
“Mike was larger than life, his kindness, his funny laugh and his ability to be a leader in the railroad family was not rivaled,” Costa said. “He will be deeply missed.”
Brother Gaitan is survived by his wife, Alice, and four children, Megan, Mike Jr., Santiago and Dolores. He also had two grandchildren.
Services for Brother Gaitan are 10:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. Tuesday, Dec. 22, 2020, at Cano Funeral Home, 2164 E. Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd., Stockton, CA 95205, where flower memorials also may be sent.
The SMART Transportation Division offers its heartfelt condolences to Brother Gaitan’s family, his friends and to all of his brothers and sisters in Local 1241.