John Pohle is surrounded by his family in this photo. Brother Pohle was critically injured in an at-work accident April 30.
Brother John Pohle, vice president of Local 17 (Marshalltown, Iowa), passed away in the hospital on May 25, 2021, nearly a month after he suffered a critical injury while working April 30 in Union Pacific’s Marshalltown Yard.
Brother Pohle, a member of the union for more than 13 years and a local officer since 2012, had been in a medically-induced coma in the weeks since the accident amputated his right leg.
The SMART Transportation Division extends its deepest condolences to Brother Pohle’s family, his friends and especially his brothers and sisters of Local 17, which he helped to lead for nearly a decade.
Brother Wesley Welch of Local 1381 (Hammond, Ind.), his wife and their two daughters lost their house in a fire Jan. 30 and are seeking help.
Welch, 39, a switchman with Norfolk Southern, and his family saw their home in Cedar Lake, Ind., destroyed and one family member was treated at a local hospital for smoke inhalation, according to a report from the Northwest Indiana Times.
Welch’s sister-in-law, Amanda Riley, has established an online fundraiser to assist Brother Welch, who has been a SMART-TD member for almost a decade, his wife and his daughters, 12 and 9, as they attempt to rebuild their lives.
“He’s a great guy — a great member,” said General Chairperson Justin Wolters (GCA-449) who is a fellow Local 1381 member.
“His wife and kids wanted us to thank you from the bottom of their hearts for your prayers and donations. She is grateful for everything you all have done,” Montero wrote on the GoFundMe page. “We personally wanted to thank everyone for all your donations and help during this time. At the end of the day, we are all a railroad family and unite to help one another out, and during these tough times it has really shown!”
When asked to describe Joe, co-workers shared:
“Joe always would show up to work with a smile and a genuine greeting, so even if you were having a bad day, he always seemed to bring out the best in you.”
Our union is in mourning after losing two of its active members this week: one in a work-related fatality and one in a traffic accident.
Ryan Sandy, 37, a member of Local 662 (Richmond, Va.) and a former local chairperson of LCA-201C, was killed in an on-the-job accident at 2:45 a.m., Monday, Oct. 12 in the Acca Yard in Henrico County, Va.
Sandy had been a member of SMART Transportation Division since February 2009 and worked as a conductor for CSX.
“We are all shocked and saddened by his passing,” fundraiser organizer Michael Carter posted. “It’s now our turn to give back and help his wife and their children as they deal with the loss of their loving husband and father.”
A number of worker fatalities over the past two years involving union workers went without an NTSB-led investigation, a situation that SMART-TD leadership made clear needed to be changed.
Across the country, Local 556 (Tacoma, Wash.) is mourning the loss of one of its officers.
Clayton Hoffman III, general chairperson of GCA-TMB (Tacoma Municipal Beltline) and local chairperson of LCA-TMB1, died in a fatal traffic accident Oct. 9. He was 43 years old.
The circumstances of GC Hoffman’s death are being investigated. He had been a member of the union since April 2004. He became GC on Oct. 1, 2012, and immediately set to work, said current Local 556 President Bill Price.
“During his time, Clayton negotiated one of the best contacts in shortline history for his members and brought those members to a livable wage,” Price said.
Price said that Hoffman served as a fierce representative of his fellow members and will be missed.
Local 556 brother Kody Henderson, local chairperson of LCA-001a, had this to say about his fallen brother:
“He was union leadership powerhouse and a union leader I looked up to. He was there when I initially took office in 2015 and helped guide me through this local chairman position. We would speak often, and as time went on we would reconnect to share stories and discharge stresses of dealing with management to one another.”
Brother Hoffman is survived by his brother, his sister and his mother.
“Clayton will be missed by all here at Local 556,” Price said.
The SMART Transportation Division offers its condolences to the relatives, friends and the brothers and sisters of Locals 662 and 556 on the passing of Brothers Sandy and Hoffman.
Bryant, 34, a conductor with Canadian National, was furloughed in late May and had returned to service Aug. 10. Just four days later, he, his wife, and their three children saw their home in Carlton, Minn., destroyed.
No one was injured in the fire, as fortunately the family members were all outside of the house when it happened.
“They are currently waiting to rebuild, which will take some time,” said Michael Strand, secretary of Local 1067.
In a display of union fraternalism, Devin Clolinger, an applicant to Local 1067, has established an online fundraiser to help Brother Matt, his wife, Jenna, and their children Emma, 11, Grace, 3, and Matty, 1.
Britnee Griffin, daughter of Local 1963 President Mike Griffin, has been battling cancer since the spring.
Britnee Griffin, daughter of Mike Griffin (a yardmaster, alternate vice chairperson of GCA 347 and the president of Local 1963 in Louisville, Ky.), has been battling aggressive cancer since the spring. The medical bills for her family are mounting, and an online fundraiser has been established as the 26-year-old continues her treatment.
“The news has been overwhelming,” Britnee’s mother and Mike’s wife, Megan, posted on the online fundraising site GoFundMe. “We are asking for help with medical expenses. Prayers appreciated.”
What began as Stage 4 melanoma has spread to Britnee’s bones with spots on her skull, right shoulder and on both ribs. Cancer has also been found in her brain, lymph nodes, left breast and lungs. Megan Griffin said in an updated posted about two weeks ago that her daughter is in “unreal” pain. Doctors have prescribed pain medications and have decided to see if chemotherapy treatment for the next two months has any effect on the cancer.
“Any donation would be greatly appreciated,” Megan posted. “Thank you and God bless.”
On July 22 of this year, Local 1715 member Karen Taylor was shot five times in broad daylight while her Charlotte Area Transit Systems (CATS) bus was stopped to unload passengers.
“…just as the last person stepped off of her bus, a man appeared out of nowhere and shot five times into her bus,” Taylor’s daughter, Latavia Clark, wrote on a gofundme page opened for Taylor. “All five shots struck my unsuspecting mother in her head, neck, shoulder and ear. One bullet and bullet fragments are still lodged in her skull.”
Taylor has already had four surgeries and is facing more in the future. The road to recovery is expected to be a long one and the bills are adding up as Taylor’s worker’s compensation claim has been denied.
Layla was rushed to the emergency room March 18 and diagnosed with Influenza A. Her condition developed into a rare condition called necrotizing encephalopathy. After more than a month in intensive care, she passed away April 23 with family at her side.
Brother Robert “Rob” J. Hemling, 39, of Randolph, Wis., and a member of Local 590, died in a train accident March 27 in Sparta, Wis.
Brother Hemling, a conductor for Canadian Pacific, was working at Cedar Creek Lumber when he was killed. Police and media reports did not provide details about the circumstances of the accident.
He began working for the Wisconsin & Southern Railroad before joining Local 590 in 2003.
He is survived by his wife, Megan; his two daughters, Madelynn and Savannah; parents, Randy and Kathy Hemling of Beaver Dam; his siblings, Rachel (Corey) Bradley of Beaver Dam, Andy (Shelly) Hemling of Randolph and Aleshia (Clint) Redeker of Randolph; parents-in-law, Terry and Betty Boomsma of Beaver Dam; a sister-in-law, Tara (Justin) Kienast of Burnett; grandmothers, Evelyn Schumacher of Randolph and Lucy (Gordon) Braaksma of Randolph; a step-grandmother, Deb Stiemsma of Randolph; nieces and nephews, Cole, Brandi, Hunter, Emma, Griffin, Paisley, Aidan, Kate, Alayna, Taylor, Brody, Kaiden and Sam; aunts, uncles, other relatives and friends.
Visitation will be 4 to 8 p.m. Monday, April 2, 2018, and on Tuesday, April 3, 2018, from 10 a.m. until an 11 a.m. funeral service at First Reformed Church, 406 S. High St., Randolph, with Pastor Linda Heisler officiating. Burial will follow in Randolph Cemetery.
Proceeds from the fund will be divided evenly among the men’s families as they recover from their injuries, which include fractures, spinal trauma and facial injuries.
A Local 1566 member who said he didn’t want to be named said he went to visit the accident site and couldn’t believe what he saw.
“I’ve never seen anything like it,” he said.
Online video footage from a drone posted by WHAM TV Channel 13 out of Rochester N.Y. shows a sinkhole underneath the tracks at the accident site. Local authorities said the cause of the derailment was under investigation.
Members have been pulling together to help the families of both men as they begin the road to recovery from their injuries.
“The families have been astonished by the amount of support,” said the Local 1566 member. “We’ve worked with these people — they’re family.”