Remembering Those We Lost

Published: April 28, 2020

Last updated on January 14th, 2021

As the COVID-19 pandemic continues, SMART mourns the deaths of those members who put their lives on the line during this global crisis.

It is important for us to work together during this crisis to prevent further deaths while thanking those doing the work to maintain our nations’ critical infrastructure and keep us safe.

We send our deepest sympathies and condolences to their families, extended families, friends, their Locals, and all who knew them.

Joseph Hansen,  SMART-TD Local 60, Newark, N.J. April 7, 2020

Joseph Hansen, a 20-year SMART Transportation Division member out of Local 60 (Newark, N.J.), passed away from COVID-19. Hansen was 62 years old and had been a SMART-TD member since November 1999. He worked out of NJT’s Raritan Yard.  “Brother Hansen’s 20 years of service was exemplary. He was the consummate professional, a loving husband, father and grandfather,” said General Chairperson Jerome Johnson (GCA-610), who is president of Local 60. “He will be greatly missed.”  (Read more)

Jory J. Bohanan, SMART-TD Local 1607, age 39, North Hollywood, Calif., died March 29, 2020.

A member of the union since 2007, he had previously worked for L.A. Metro and had only worked a couple of months for MV Transportation, which contracts with Santa Clarita Transit. “My son, he was a great man. He had a big heart. He was a genuine, good person, and he was easy-going,” his father, Darryl Bohanan, told the Santa Clarita Signal. Jory is survived by his children and was engaged to be married. A GoFundMe had been set up to assist his family.

Kenneth R. Jackson, SMART-TD Local 1337, age 73, Brusly, La., died April 1, 2020. Brother Jackson was a veteran of the Vietnam War and a retired Union Pacific conductor.

Donnie Carson, SMART-TD Local 1908, age 69, Buffalo, N.Y., died April 3, 2020.

Domingo Tovar, SMART-TD Retired Local 23,  Santa Cruz, Calif., April 14, 2020

Brother Tovar, 68, served two stints with Santa Cruz Metro as a bus operator starting in 1982, then leaving for another carrier before returning to Santa Cruz in 1987. He was involved in the initial contract talks with the carrier as well as a 37-day strike against in 2005.
He served a year as secretary and treasurer for Local 23.

“He had many friends. He was a happy person,” said retired Local 23 member Serena Tovar, Brother Tovar’s wife of more than 43 years and a 30-year SMART-TD member. “Domingo remained the same type of person the day she met him to the day he passed. He was always happy. He just loved life and had no regrets. He was very proud of his kids and was always there for his family.”

Michael A. Hill  SMART-TD Local 61, Philadelphia, Pa, April 14, 2020

Brother Hill was a 30-year member of SMART-TD and worked for the Southeastern Pennsylvania Transit Authority (SEPTA). He was the second active member fatality for SMART-TD reported from the virus following New Jersey Transit conductor Joseph Hansen.

Rameliah “Reme” JenningsSMART-TD Local 1589, age 74, Scotch Plains, N.J., died April 22, 2020.

Brother Jennings spent much of his career with United Parcel Service (UPS). After he retired, in 2007 he tapped into his love for driving and worked part-time with Suburban Bus Company (Coach USA). In typical “Reme” fashion, he bonded with the staff at the company and was well admired and loved. He joined the union in 2011. Brother Jennings, an ordained minister, was a globetrotter and was constantly on the go! He had the opportunity to travel to Europe, Asia, Africa, and the Caribbean. He was also an avid sports fan and was passionate about his golf game. He served as associate pastor at First Park Baptist Church in Plainfield, N.J. The Rev. Jennings leaves to cherish fond memories, his wife of 35 years, Dorothy, his children, sisters and many nieces, nephews, and friends.

Kenneth K. Skoog, retired from SMART-TD Local 1177, age 90, Whapeton, N.D., died April 24, 2020. An Air Force veteran, Brother Skoog began working for the Great Northern Railroad in 1951, which later merged with the Burlington Northern Railroad. He retired in 1993 after 43 years of service.

Stephen G. McFadden, SMART-TD Local 61, age 51, Philadelphia, Pa., died April 30, 2020. Brother McFadden was a SEPTA conductor and a member of the union since September 1991. “I saw him at every union meeting we had – and sometimes he was the only person there,” said Bernard Norwood, general chairperson of GO-STA. “Stephen was very committed to the union. He was a really nice guy.” Using money out of his own pocket, Brother McFadden donated to the local’s annual holiday party without fail, Norwood said. He was a very passionate Phillies fan – sometimes catching part of the game during the down time he had during a shift and filling in his union brothers and sisters on what was going on – and making sure the game was on the TV in the crew room.

Rony L. Jacobs, SMART-TD Local 30, age 69, Alma, Ga., died May 9, 2020. A retiree from Amtrak, Brother Jacobs was a conductor for the carrier for 40 years.

George Appiah-Kumi, SMART-TD Local 1589, age 63, Somerset, N.J., a union brother, friend and coworker passed away May 18, 2020, at RWJ Hospital in New Brunswick. as a result of COVID-19.

George has been part of Suburban Transit since July 7, 2014.

“His dedication to his work and strong union activism are the reasons why he was well appreciated and liked by both management and union,” said General Chairperson Gordon Harris, who is also Local 1589’s president. “I will always remember his soft, quiet voice and brilliant smile every time we ran into each other at work. George was a team player and has helped out many times even on short notice. May his soul rest in peace.”

Wilfredo Corsino, SMART-TD Local 1607, age 65, Los Angeles, Calif., died June 11, 2020. A bus operator for L.A. Metro out of Divisions 7, 10, and 13, he joined the union in 1996. “Many operators remember Brother Corsino’s infectious laugh and his love for Metro. Many of his co-workers stated that he was a great ping-pong and pool player,” GC John Ellis said.

Retiree Luther “Junior” Lawson, SMART-TD Local 1315, Florence, Ky., age 89, passed away Aug. 26, 2020, as a result of COVID-19. He joined the union in 1970 and was a brakeman for CSX.

Ramon Gamez, a SMART-TD Local 1563 member, passed away from COVID-19 on Aug. 21, 2020, at age 55. A Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority worker, Brother Gamez worked out of Division 3202 and was hired December 21, 1997.

Well-liked by his co-workers, Brother Gamez was a great family man and is survived by his wife, Sonia Gamez; daughter, Alejandra Gamez; and son Ramon Gamez Jr., a SMART-TD member out of Local 1565. Brother Gamez loved to play chess, take trips to the lake, go to Las Vegas and go to the movies with his family.

“He was very friendly and outgoing and will truly be missed,” General Chairperson John Ellis said.

Rohan Johnson, SMART-TD Local 1715, Gastonia, N.C., age 59, a member of the union since February 2012 who worked for the Charlotte Area Transit System (CATS), passed away on Aug. 30 from COVID-19.

“He was known as dependable man that would help anyone in need,” Bus Department Vice President Alvy Hughes said.

“A respectful, loving and caring husband, father, and friend,” his wife posted. “Was loved and will be sadly missed by many.”

Christopher Bruce Skaggs, 49, of Mammoth Spring, Ark., died on Monday, October 26, 2020 at Fulton County Hospital in Salem, Ark. Brother Skaggs was a former president of Local 607 (Thayer, Mo.) and a former legislative secretary of the Missouri State Legislative Board.

Jose “Joe” Alfaro, a member of SMART Transportation Division for more than 15 years, died from COVID-19 on Nov. 13. He was 58 years old. Brother Alfaro was a member of Local 18 in El Paso, Texas, and worked as a trainman/brakeman for Union Pacific.

He leaves behind his wife of 22 years, Ruoana and four children: Avan Brian, Mia Brianna, Vanessa and Robert.

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. An engineer with BNSF, he joined our union in February 1995.

“Mike was larger than life, his kindness, his funny laugh and his ability to be a leader in the railroad family was not rivaled,” California State Legislative Director Louis 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.

Angel Lomeli, a 14-year member of our union, passed away Jan. 5, 2021, from COVID-19. He was 48 years old.

Brother Lomeli was a member of Local 1846 (West Colton, Calif.) and worked as a trainman for Union Pacific.

“God gained the absolute best angel today, we miss you but a soul as beautiful as yours will never be forgotten,” his family wrote on a memorial fundraiser page in his memory.

He is survived by his wife, five children and four grandchildren.

Thomas R. Christensen SMART SM Local 9, Denver, CO. A member since 1965.

Warren H. Hodges, SM SM Local 66, Everett, WA.

Reyernesto Mendoza, SM Local 105, Los Angeles, CA.  Brother Mendoza was a 25 year sheet metal member who started his career in 1995 and worked at Critchfield Mechanical.   In a message on the Local 105 website, SMART Local 105 Vice President Steve Hinson described Rey as someone who always had a smile on his face and a positive attitude.  On Facebook, many of his fellow union members expressed their condolences and described Rey as a hard worker.  According to an article from KTLA News, “Rey was one of those guys you meet along your path that you would never forget. A great man who will be missed dearly,” one member wrote.  His Local 105 brothers and sisters set up a GoFundMe website for his family.

Thomas L. Leonard, SM Local 20, Hobart, IN. Brother Leonard passed away Thursday, April 23, 2020. He was born in Gary, Indiana on November 24, 1942 and graduated from Hobart High School in 1961.  A long time member in Indiana, he retired from Area Sheet Metal in 2000.  He was survived by his son and two daughters.

Anthony L. Rush, SM Local 20, Indianapolis, IN.  Brother Rush passed away on the evening of March 28, 2020.  He was born in Indianapolis on January 10, 1953 and was a member of St John Missionary Baptist Church in his hometown.  He retired in 1997 after over 18 years at Bright Sheet Metal and as a long time member of SM Local 20.

Stanley E. Turner, SM Local 20, Evansville, IN.  Stanley E. Turner II passed away on Monday April 6th, 2020.  He was born in Cape Girardeau, Missouri on Sept 26, 1945.  His  family settled in Evansville early in his childhood and he attended North High School, graduating in 1963.  He joined the Navy and served 2 yrs active duty and 23 yrs of reserve duty with his highest ranking at retirement as a Chief Petty Officer. During his time at sea, he learned his craft as a Sheet metal journeyman and welder. He was an active member of Local 20 and served as a union steward during his career. He was known for his work ethic, integrity and high level craftsmanship.  He was a long time member of his church and after retirement, he would volunteer his time using his craftsmanship to perform maintenance and special projects for his fellow church members.

Gerald Carson, Local 63, Springfield, MA

Bob Olwig, Local 36