Late summer took painful toll on PEF
By SHERRY HALBROOK
PEF recently lost five retired members who devoted countless hours to the union, PEF Retirees, labor, political action and many other efforts to make life better for workers, their communities and this country.
These activists are Roxane Rosario, John (Jack) Lim, Royal Willie, Bernard (Bernie) Kahn and Richard (Dick) Collins. They died in the period between late July and late September.
“It is staggering to think of the thousands of hours of combined service they contributed,” said PEF President Wayne Spence. “These were people who cared about union values, public issues and about the welfare of other people enough to personally sacrifice their time and effort to make a difference. They deserve our respect and gratitude for that. And for many of us they were old friends, whom we will miss and always remember.”
PEF Retirees President Jim Carr said, “It makes me proud to think of how Roxane, Jack, Royal, Bernie and Dick never faltered in their determination and their generosity. They may have retired from formally serving New York’s citizens, but they kept right on working to advance the causes that mattered to them. And they brought great personal and professional skills to those efforts.”
Collins, for instance, had retired to Las Vegas, NV where he became very active in supporting labor issues, the Working Families Party, the American Federation of Teachers and Service Employees International Union and progressive political candidates. He ran phone banks last year that made more than half a million calls to union voters. When Hillary Clinton heard of his illness following the election, she sent him a personal note of thanks and encouragement.
Dick Collins was a well known PEF steward, delegate, council leader and member of the Executive Board representing members at Greenhaven Correctional Facility where he was a vocational instructor. He also was a military veteran and vigorously supported the PEF Veterans Committee. He served at various times on a joint contract committee on professional development, labor-management committees, a PEF Retirement Reform Committee and others.
Bernie Kahn served many years on the PEF Executive Board and was a passionate and unflagging advocate for his fellow members at the NYS Insurance Fund and throughout the union, putting in 35 years at that agency before retiring in 2011. He had chaired the PEF Division 240 Health and Safety Committee, and the PEF Workers Compensation Committee and served on many more. In 2007, he received the PEF Outstanding Service Award for representing PEF in dealing with the Governor’s Office of Employee Relations and the state Department of Civil Service regarding PS&T Contract articles on workplace safety and health.
Beyond his work for NYSIF and PEF, Kahn was active in the Boy Scouts of America and Jewish community organizations, serving as co-chair of the Council of Presidents of Jewish Temples on Staten Island. This devotion to his community continued after his retirement and he was honored for his help to residents following Hurricane Sandy.
Jack Lim was beloved by his fellow PEF members, especially at the NYSIF, where he worked for many years and served at various times as an Executive Board member, Division 240 council leader, division steward and convention delegate. Lim was a military veteran and strong supporter of the PEF Veterans Committee. He, too, continued to contribute after leaving state service and was president of the Hudson Valley Chapter of PEF Retirees until his death.
Royal Willie lived on Staten Island and was a licensed master social worker 2 at the Staten Island Developmental Disabilities Services Office for many years. Although he had recently completed his last day on the job there, Willie died before he reached his retirement date.
Willie was a dedicated member of PEF Division 280, serving as a steward and advancing to treasurer in 2005 and was elected council leader in 2007. He was a civil rights activist and before joining state service, he had been director of the Staten Island Division of the NY Urban League and had also worked 20 years as a funeral director in his parent’s business.
Roxane Rosario worked for the state Office of Children and Family Services until she retired in 2014. She focused her efforts in PEF on helping to found and nurture the PEF Black Caucus and the PEF Hispanic Committee among other constituency groups. At various times, she served as a steward and as treasurer of PEF Division 352, as well as the PEF Convention Committee. She died July 29 while visiting Cuba. Rosario grew up in a strong labor family, her grandparents being the first Latino members of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW).
Not only were these members devoted to PEF and their communities, they had families whom they held very dear and who cherished them.
“We extend our sympathy and condolences to all of these families,” Carr said.
“And we thank them for sharing their family members with the family of PEF,” Spence added.