Willis Croonquist, of Local 1177 (Willmar, Minn.), a former United Transportation Union Minnesota state legislative director and alternate national legislative director in the 1980s and ’90s, died Jan. 24. He was 81.
Croonquist had been a member of the union since 1955, and served as a guiding light to many on the legislative side of the union, including current National Legislative Director John Risch.
“Over the years, Willis was much more than a union brother,” said John Risch, national legislative director for SMART TD. “He was my mentor and a dear friend. He was well-liked and was well respected, which is what made him a very effective Minnesota legislative director and UTU alternate national legislative director.”
Risch continued, “Willis was always fun to be with. He knew how to have a good time and when I was with him I had a good time, too. He will be missed … I miss him already.”
Past UTU President Thomas DuBose offered his personal condolences in a message to Croonquist’s family:
“Please know that the death of my longtime friend Willis was received with shock and much sadness,” DuBose wrote. “Our years of friendship will always be an important entry in my book of memories.
“Without question, the American labor movement lost a leading trade unionist and political activist in every sense of the word, with his passing.”
Members of Local 1177 (Willmar, Minn.) gathered in December 2010 to present former Alternate National Legislative Director and Minnesota State Legislative Director Willis Croonquist with a brass lantern commemorating his then-55 years as a member of the UTU.
Croonquist’s career was steeped in politics. Not only did he work on the UTU’s legislative side, but he was also a Minnesota Democratic Farmer Labor Party national delegate and counted U.S. Vice Presidents Hubert Humphrey and Walter Mondale among his friends.
In an article published in September 2000 in the UTU News, Croonquist talked about how Humphrey inspired him politically.
“I was a young brakeman when I first heard Humphrey speak,” he said, “and he lit a fire under me.”
Croonquist began his career as a fireman on the Great Northern in 1955, and joined the Brotherhood of Locomotive Firemen & Enginemen. Just short of the requisite 10 years of seniority to become an engineer, a movement to eliminate firemen resulted in Croonquist becoming a brakeman and a member of the Order of Railway Conductors and Brakemen.
Elected local legislative representative in 1968, he found his way onto the state legislative board, and in 1984 became state legislative director, a post he held for nine years. In 1991, he was elected UTU assistant national legislative director but resigned in 1993 when the railroad offered a buyout and the Designated Legal Counsel law firm Hunegs, Stone, LeNeave, Kvas & Thornton, sought his expertise as an investigator.
After leaving the railroad, Croonquist still maintained his contributions to the union’s political action committee. In 2011, he appeared with family members in an ad promoting UTUIA products that appeared in the UTU News in 2011. He also was honored by Local 1177 for his then-55 years of continuous membership with a brass lantern presented at a meeting of his home local in December 2010.
“He was known by many in the government affairs, philanthropic and religious community and loved by all who spent time with him,” said Minnesota State Legislative Director Philip Qualy. “For our 1,200 members and many retirees across Minnesota, I offer my sincere condolences to the Croonquist family.”
Carl Cochran, a former Florida state legislative director and the national coordinator of the SMART TD Alumni Association, worked with Croonquist and offered condolences as well.
“What is sad is that not all our sisters and brothers were able to get to know Brother Croonquist — a great union person and family man,” Cochran said.
Visitation is scheduled 3 to 5 p.m. Sunday, Feb. 10, with services 11 a.m., Monday, Feb. 11, at St. Barnabas Lutheran Church, 15600 Old Rockford Road, Plymouth, Minn.
William Arthur McManus (Maxie), 74, of Dumont, N.J., died Jan. 5, 2019, at the James J. VA Medical Center in the Bronx, N.Y.
Bill, a member of SMART Transportation Division Local 1447, joined the union in November 1977 and was a railroad conductor with CSX and Conrail for more than 30 years, retiring as Local 1447’s trustee in 2011. He proudly served his country in the U.S. Army during the Vietnam era, and was a member of the American Legion Post 21, Cresskill, the Disabled American Veterans and Elks Lodge 1477.
He is survived by his wife of 45 years, Marie (Crutchfield); his children; his grandchildren; and many other relatives.
Visitation will be 4 to 9 p.m. Friday, Jan. 11 at the Frech-McKnight Funeral Home, 161 Washington Ave., Dumont. A funeral Mass be 10 a.m., at St. Joseph R.C. Church, Oradell, with interment to follow in George Washington Memorial Park, Paramus.
As an expression of sympathy or in lieu of flowers, donations may be made in William’s memory to Vietnam Veterans of America, 8719 Colesville Road, Suite 100, Silver Spring, MD 20910.
The General President, General Secretary Treasurer, General Executive Council, Staff of the International Association of Sheet Metal, Air, Rail and Transportation Workers and the members and officers of SMART affiliates across the U.S. and Canada mourn the death of our esteemed brother and a legendary crusader for working people everywhere, SMART General President Emeritus Joseph J. Nigro.
Joe was a proud member of Local Union 17 in Boston and served as General President from July 2011 until April 1, 2015. In a letter to the locals and membership upon his retirement, he stated, “I have committed my heart and mind to accomplishing the goals we have set, but my health has taken me in a direction I did not anticipate. Unfortunately, I have been unable to recover to a level I expect of myself as your General President—the level of effort the members deserve”. A fitting response from Joe, who always gave the membership 100% of what he believed they deserved.
Nigro was the first General President of SMART and the leader of our more than 200,000 members. At the first SMART Convention Joe, who was very proud of SMART leadership at all levels stated, “we have had some successes and have laid the groundwork for moving forward, I have every confidence we have collectively built a team of International and Local Union leaders who can get the job done for the membership.”
Joe Nigro’s vision, guidance, kindness and sense of humor will live on to inspire not only those whose lives he touched, but also future generations of members who will benefit from his leadership. We will forever miss his friendship and unwavering support.
He will always be remembered as the “Members General President”. A title he richly deserved and cherished.
A viewing is scheduled 2 to 7 p.m. Monday, October 29th, 2018, at Sweeney Funeral Home, 74 Elm St., Quincy, MA 02169. The funeral home can be contacted at (617) 773-2728.
A funeral Mass will be 11 a.m. Tuesday, October 30th, 2018, in Most Holy Sacrament Church (Houghs Neck Section of Quincy), 40 Darrow St. (at Sea Street) in Quincy, MA 02169.
In lieu of flowers, donations can be made to:
“SMWI Scholarship Foundation/Joey Nigro Jr.”
c/o Christy Foley
1750 New York Avenue N.W. Suite 600
Washington, DC 20006
Cards can be sent to Pat Nigro and family at 5296 N. Princewood Drive, Beverly Hills, FL 34465.
Our hearts and prayers go out to Pat, Tina and the entire Nigro family on their irreplaceable loss.
Two members, Jason Vincent Martinez, 40, and Benjamin ‘Benji’ George Brozovich, 39, died Thursday, Oct. 4 when the Union Pacific (UP) train they were operating hit the rear-end of a stopped train near Cheyenne, Wyo. SMART TD would like to express our condolences to the members’ families, friends, Local 446 and all who knew them.
Martinez, an engineer, had been a member since November of 2006 and was a lifetime member of VFW Post 1881. In his free time, he enjoyed playing pool and softball, going to Las Vegas and gambling, and was a Denver Broncos fan.
Martinez is survived by his wife Sheila; children, Izabella Teniente, Aubriana and Alexis Martinez; parents, Vincent and Rose Martinez; sisters, Bernadette (David) Herrera, Jessica (Anthony Pena) Martinez and Sasha (Manuel Fonseca) Martinez; his parents-in-law, Arlene and Carlos Trujillo; numerous godchildren, aunts, uncles, nieces and nephews. He was preceded in death by his grandparents, Prisciliano and Ursulita Barela, and Jose V. and Florence Martinez.
A visitation will be held Saturday, Oct. 13 from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. at Wiederspahn-Radomsky Chapel, 1900 E. 19th St. Cheyenne, WY 82001. A Vigil for the Deceased will be held Monday, Oct. 15 at 6:30 p.m. at St. Mary’s Cathedral, 100 W. 21st St., Cheyenne, WY 82001. A funeral liturgy will be held Tuesday, Oct. 16 at 10:30 a.m. at St. Mary’s Cathedral, burial and military honors will follow.
Click here to leave condolences for the family and to read Martinez’s full obituary.
Brozovich, a conductor, had been a member since June of 2015 and had been employed by UP for 20 years. He loved motorcycles and the Denver Broncos. In his free time, he enjoyed motocross racing and golf.
He is survived by his parents, Art Brozovich and Madeleine (Jack) Jacobs; brother, Tyler Brozovich; daughter, Sierra Brozovich; maternal grandmother, Wilma Kalamaja; and many aunts, uncles and cousins. He was preceded in death by his paternal grandparents, Martin and Katherine Brozovich; maternal grandfather, Karl Kalamaja; and brothers, Jordan and Jason.
Funeral services will be held at 10 a.m. on Monday, Oct. 15 at the Niobrara County Fairgrounds Auditorium, 4080 U.S. Hwy 20, Lusk, WY 82225. Father Andrew Duncan of St. Leo Catholic Church will be officiating.
Click here to leave condolences for the family and to read Brozovich’s full obituary.
Clint Miller, general counsel for the United Transportation Union for more than two decades, died March 28 at his home in Lakewood, Ohio. He was 70.
Before his 2012 retirement, Miller was a fixture in the UTU Legal Department for 27 years – 21 of them as UTU general counsel. He also participated as a member of the negotiating team in national contract talks.
At the time of Miller’s retirement, then-UTU International President Mike Futhey said: “In Clint Miller, the UTU has had a lawyer with the best interests of the membership at heart.”
He is survived by his daughters, Emily (Lewis) Dichairo, Hilary (Aaron) Lee, and Sarah (Mark) Gonzales; wife, Cynthia; stepdaughter Stephanie Popik; and grandchildren Annabelle, Greyson, Reese, Ryan and Camden.
He was preceded in death by his first wife, Bettie Sue, in 2002.
Former four-term UTU International Vice President James “Jim” M. Hicks, of Nortonville, Ky., died March 29 at Baptist Health Hospital. He was 96.
Hicks was local chairperson of Local 904, Evansville, Ind., for 11 years before election in 1963 as general chairperson on Louisville & Nashville Railway (now part of CSX). He was elected alternate vice president of UTU predecessor Brotherhood of Railroad Trainmen in 1968 and re-elected in 1971 and 1975 during UTU conventions. He first took office as an International vice president in 1976. Hicks also served as manager of the UTU Field Service Department from 1981 to 1983. He retired in 1990.
He was preceded in death by his wife of 68 years, Ruth.
He is survived by his two sons, Corkie (Lois) Hicks of London, Ky., and Don (Shirley) Hicks of Owensboro.
In lieu of flowers the family request donations be made to the Shriners Hospital for Children, mail to Rizpah Temple 3300 Hanson Rd. Madisonville, KY 42431.
Phyllis Reed of Florence, Ky., passed away Wednesday, January 3, 2018, at St. Elizabeth Hospital in Florence. Phyllis was born Aug. 17, 1939, to the late Victor and Mary Osborn.
She married former B&O General Committee General Chairman J.T. “Terry” Reed in 1962, he preceded Phyllis in death on March 5, 2013. Phyllis was self taught and a very motivated person. She enjoyed cooking, crafts and the occasional political debate with her husband.
A visitation is at Floral Hills Funeral Home on Monday, Jan. 8, 2018, from noon until time of the Funeral Service at 2 p.m. Burial will immediately follow in Floral Hills Memorial Gardens. Phyllis is survived by her daughter Melody and and son in law Alex Warner; grandson Dave and his wife Tracy Warner; granddaughter and Shelby and her husband Greg Turner; granddaughter Alison Warner; great-grandchildren Joshua, Tristan and Gavin Warner. Please visit www.floralhillsmemorialgardens.com to leave online condolences.
Gregory Gabriel Meehan, 87, passed away Wednesday, Nov. 29, 2017, at Jersey Shore University Medical Center, surrounded by his family.
Visitation was at Buckley Funeral Home, 509 Second Ave., Asbury Park, N.J., Dec. 3. Funeral Mass was celebrated Dec. 4 at Holy Spirit Church, 705 Second Ave., Asbury Park, N.J.
Born to Joseph and Helen Meehan on May 30, 1930, in Jersey City, Greg lived most of his life in North Arlington before spending his last years in Asbury Park, N.J.
Greg started his career with the Intercity Bus Company which became part of New Jersey Transit and worked as a bus driver for 37 years, many of them out of the Madison Avenue garage in Paterson, N.J. With great pride, he represented his fellow drivers in contract negotiations, grievances and arbitration issues as the chairman of his United Transportation Union local for more than 20 years until his retirement in 1992.
“Serving the UTU as a local chairman was a source of great pride for him,” his daughter, Kerry Dorio, said in an email. “He relished the opportunities at the conventions every four years.”
“We will always remember him tapping away at the typewriter via single finger, during his split to work on his union business.”
Greg was preceded in death by his wife of 61 years, Constance Meehan, and leaves five children and five grandchildren.
Clyde Larson, 62, described as “an absolute pillar” of the railroad labor community in northern Minnesota and Wisconsin, died on Nov. 8.
“Brother Clyde was a tremendously generous person and assisted all crafts,” said SMART TD Minnesota Legislative Director Phillip Qualy. “Clyde helped an untold number of railroad workers and our families with railroad and non-railroad matters.” Larson, of Hermantown, Minn., was a member of UTU Local 1292 and worked as a conductor on the Duluth Missabe and Iron Range, later CN Railway, first hiring out in 1974 at age 19 as a brakeman.
He also served as Local 1292’s Local and General Chairperson from the late 1980s to 2010, protecting one of the most lucrative steel road contracts in the United States.
He also served as legislative representative on the Minnesota Legislative Board from 2003 to 2009.
Brother Larson had served as a field investigator for the designated counsel law firm Hunegs, LeNeave and Kvas since 2010.
Clyde was serving our members in the union hall (Local 832/1175) to his final day. His ongoing dedication to his brothers and sisters of railroad labor was truly remarkable.
Brother Larson is survived by his wife, Anne, three sons, Scott, Eric, and Corey, two grandchildren and his father, Dexter Larson.
Visitation will be 5-7 p.m., with a wake prayer at 5 p.m., Tuesday, Nov. 14, at Dougherty Funeral Home in Duluth. Visitation will continue from 10-11 a.m., followed by the Mass of Christian Burial at 11 a.m., Wednesday, Nov. 15, at St. Lawrence Church in Duluth. Burial will be in Calvary Cemetery.
SMART TD extends its condolences to Clyde’s family and friends.
Retired UTU Designated Legal Counsel (DLC) David B. Kiker, 70, died Saturday, Sept. 2. An attorney for the law firm Rossi, Cox, Kiker & Inderwish in Aurora, Colo., Kiker served as DLC until his retirement in 2003.
Kiker is survived by his wife of 45 years, Pamela Seale; three natural children, John (Jennifer) Kiker, Chris (Kate) Kiker and Polly (Spencer) Gilligan; embraced children, Ashley (Roy) Sakker and Turner (Angela) Lang; mother, Dorothy Kiker; sister, Kelly (Keith) Beitler; sister, Emily Kiker; 11 grandchildren and many other family and friends. He was preceded in death by his father, George Kiker; birth mother, Shirley Kiker; grandmother, Alma Webb; and his aunt, Jane Webb.
Funeral services will be held Friday, Sept. 8, at 11 a.m. at the Littleton Church of Christ, 6495 South Colorado Blvd., Centennial, CO 80121.
Retired Alternate Vice President and General Chairperson Edward Yule Jr., 81, died August 10.
As general chairperson of GCA 505, Yule was instrumental in working on agreements with Long Island Rail Road and even led UTU members in a 45-hour strike in 1994 in an effort to get the members an equitable agreement. Yule was a member of Local 645 in Babylon, N.Y., and a member of the Alumni Association. He was also a veteran of the U.S. Army.
Yule is survived by hi wife, Beatrice; sons, Kenneth (Donna) Yule and Gregory (Tracey) Yule; sisters, Carole (JK) Murray and Pamela (William) Blank; and many grandchildren. He was preceded in death by his son Edward (Victoria) Yule.