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May 2016

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Vincent O'Reilly

We are saddened to announce the death of Vincent A. O'Reilly, former senior executive assistant to the International President.

Brother O'Reilly was born in 1928 in Evanston, Ill., and initiated into Northbrook Local 1530 — later amalgamated into Downers Grove Local 15 — in 1946. He served 31 years in the International Office, the final 20 as assistant to three International Presidents.

When he retired, International President Emeritus Edwin D. Hill said, "You don't replace a Vince O'Reilly. You accept the fact he has certainly earned his retirement and then start to miss him… It is not possible to know how much good he has done for our members and other North American working people."

Almost immediately after joining the IBEW, O'Reilly was an activist. He joined the Local 1530 executive board in 1954, became financial secretary in 1956 and was elected business manager in 1958. He was appointed an international representative in 1971 and assigned to the utility department at the International Office. Two years later, he was made the director of the department.

"If you had to use one word, he was a real gentleman in the old-fashioned sense," said C. James Spellane, former director of the IBEW Media Department. "He was calm, reserved, and respectful but he kept everyone pulling in the same direction."

Brother O'Reilly oversaw the utility department during deregulation, the most dramatic change to the industry since Thomas Edison created the first utility in the 19th century.

In Washington, Brother O'Reilly represented the IBEW on many national and international panels and committees including the Executive Advisory Committee of the Federal Power Commission and the 20th Century Fund Independent Task Force in U.S. Energy Policy.

Former International President Charles Pillard appointed O'Reilly as assistant to the president in 1982 and International then President J.J. Barry promoted him to senior executive assistant in 1987.

"Everyone has their role to play, and his was giving advice to the leader of the IBEW and helping the people who report to the president succeed," Spellane said. "We have had major figures at the top of the IBEW leading the way but what keeps it successful is that there are incredibly talented, intelligent, and humble people who do their part. Vince did his extraordinarily well."

Brother O'Reilly is survived by his son, Rev. Kevin O'Reilly — a familiar face to many in the IBEW from his frequent delivery of invocations at union events — his daughter Kim, and three grandchildren.

To his family and friends, the IBEW extends sincere sympathy.


Vincent O'Reilly

Edward E. Harvey

The Brotherhood is saddened to announce the death of retired International Representative Edward E. Harvey on March 13.

Brother Harvey was a 60-year member of Chattanooga, Tenn., Local 175, but his connection to the IBEW went back to his childhood.

During the Great Depression, Ed's father Emmett Harvey got a job working at a Chattanooga housing project. With that job came not only a paycheck and membership in the IBEW, but also a house.

"They were homeless. That job gave Ed's family a place to live and that is why he loved the IBEW so much," said Local 175 Business Manager Gary Watkins.

Brother Harvey joined Local 175 in 1948 after a year in the Marine Corps. He was president of Local 175 from 1965 to 1974, when he was elected business manager. He was appointed by then-International President Charles H. Pillard to be an international representative in the former Twelfth District (now the Tenth District) in 1980. He retired in 1998.

As business manager, Edwards started the Southern Electrical Retirement and Benefit Funds. Today, the retirement fund has over $1 billion in assets for 21,000 members and retirees. The benefits fund was so successful, it became the NECA/IBEW Family Medical Care Plan, which now has more than 80,000 members.

One of the concrete ways he gave Local 175 members hope was during the planning of the new hall in the 1960s. Some members wanted a simple, inexpensive metal-shelled building. Brother Harvey passionately argued against it.

"We are not a big local, but Ed said we deserve better. We deserve a hall that welcomes people, that is solid and permanent. A home we can take pride in," Watkins said.

Brother Harvey won the day and Local 175 still occupies the now much expanded hall Harvey built.

"It is what he hoped it would become," Watkins said.

Harvey is survived by Billie, his wife of 44 years, and five children, Jason, Dennis, Steve, Eddie and Sharee.

"He loved his family and he loved the IBEW," Watkins said. "Even as he was dying, he'd ask me 'How is my local? How is my business manager?' The IBEW was everything to him."

To his family and friends, the IBEW extends sincere sympathy.


Edward E. Harvey

Robert Erickson

Second District International Representative Robert Erickson retired March 31, capping off a 45-year IBEW career in the telecommunications industry.

Initiated into Manchester, N.H., Local 2320 in early 1971, Erickson spent more than 30 years as an installation and maintenance technician, starting with New England Telephone in New Hampshire and enduring numerous ownership changes that ended with his retirement from Verizon in 2008.

From 2003 until his appointment as International Representative in 2007, Erickson served as his local's assistant business manager, the final year of which was spent working with the International Office in fighting the sale of Verizon's New England landline and Internet business to FairPoint Communications, then a small telecom outfit based in North Carolina.

"That sale was the start of some very tough years for us," Erickson said, "and we fought it with everything we had." After spending months lobbying regulators and elected officials and testifying in hearings about the dangers of the deal, its approval was a letdown.

Despite FairPoint's promises about efficiency and modernization, the company, which expanded five-fold with the Verizon acquisition, declared bankruptcy just 18 months later. "We'd predicted it would take two or three years," Erickson said. "We didn't know just how right we were."

The International Office took notice and invited Erickson to join the Broadcasting and Telecommunications Department in Washington in 2007.

Over six years in D.C., he spent much of his time lobbying Congress, attending hearings on Capitol Hill and at the Federal Communications Commission, and working on regulatory and legislative issues that affected members.

But it was after his 2014 return to the Second District and his home state of New Hampshire that Erickson would truly leave his mark.

"I left Washington in September, and FairPoint members at IBEW and the Communications Workers of America went on strike Oct. 17," Erickson said. Many of his former co-workers were the ones walking picket lines and struggling to get by, and it weighed heavily on him.

"That strike was tough on everyone," he said. "The first three or four weeks were OK, but that was a cold winter, and the second and third months were especially hard."

"We only had about 10 people out of the 1,800 IBEW and CWA members cross our line," he said.

"Bob played a critical role in mediating that deal," said Broadcasting and Telecommunications Department Director Martha Pultar. "We ended up with a far better agreement than the one FairPoint was proposing, thanks in no small part to his work."

Entering retirement, Erickson plans to do some traveling with his wife, Anne, and to spend more time outdoors and with family near their Rochester, N.H., home.

The IBEW officers, staff and membership wish Brother Erickson a long, happy and healthy retirement.


Robert Erickson

Richard "Rick" Gessler

After 44 years of service to his IBEW family, Sixth District International Representative Richard "Rick" Gessler retired effective October 2, 2015.

Born and raised in Illinois, Brother Gessler was initiated into Downers Grove, Ill., Local 336 as a telephone installer repairman with Illinois Bell. Local 336 later amalgamated with Downers Grove, Ill., Local 21, the local that would remain his home.

He served on the substance abuse and bargaining committees, as chief steward and as a business representative. He also served five years as assistant business manager and vice president.

"I thought I could help the membership," Gessler said of his decision to run for office. "I saw too many people being abused by management and they weren't speaking up."

Appointed international representative in 2005, Gessler served in that capacity for the next 10 years, servicing the railroad, telecommunications and broadcast branches.

"It was great to be able to help, especially the smaller locals," Gessler said. "Oftentimes they'd have someone who really wanted to do something but didn't have the resources. So I'd help wherever I could, with Department of Labor regulations or making sure they were following the [IBEW] constitution, things like that."

Brother Gessler says that he is most proud of "getting involved, period."

"Getting along with everyone and meeting the members, I do miss that," he said. "I've had a very fulfilling career. I wouldn't change it for the world."

He and his wife Mary moved to Florida upon retirement.

"I'm busier now than I ever would have believed, with all the activities and making new friends. We love Florida. And we don't miss the snow," Gessler said.


Richard "Rick" Gessler

Larry McGlamary

International Representative for Membership Development Larry McGlamary ended a 41-year career with the IBEW when he retired on Oct. 2.

Brother McGlamary was initiated into Roanoke, Va., Local 637 in 1974. (Local 637 was later merged into Washington, D.C., Local 26.) He is a journeyman wireman and served as 637's recording secretary from 1988-90 and its financial secretary from 1990-98. But he was best known for his organizing skills, traveling throughout Virginia to spread the gospel about the benefits of union membership.

"I always liked going and talking to people and giving them the facts, letting them know how things really are," McGlamary said. "There's so many misconceptions. Corporations have always been diligent about being anti-union and giving misinformation."

He moved to the International Office in Washington in 1998 and was appointed international representative in 2005.

In 2003, he helped with a campaign to organize about 220 manufacturing workers at the Osram Sylvania gas plant in Versailles, Ky. McGlamary worked closely with now-retired International Representative David Appleman, a longtime friend, and won despite opposition from a union-busting law firm retained by the company.

In 2015, he assisted with a successful organizing effort at Asplundh Tree Experts locations in Virginia. It was McGlamary's final organizing campaign before retirement and was made sweeter by the fact all eight shops voted in favor of IBEW representation, he said.

"All [organizing efforts] were rewarding due to the fact we were able to educate workers about their workplace rights," he said.

McGlamary said the most difficult part of retirement was informing Carmella Thomas, director of professional and industrial organizing, of his decision.

"Watching him as an organizer taught me the most important rule of organizing: to listen and to not speak," Thomas said. "If you are not listening, you are not communicating. He organized to grow our Brotherhood. He organized to help those employees who were being treated unfairly."

McGlamary and wife Marilyn recently moved to Manchester, Pa., to be close to daughter Kari and their two grandchildren. Jaime, another daughter, lives in Charleston, W.Va. Son Drew is deceased. He and his wife plan to spend their winters in Florida.

The IBEW officers, members and staff thank Brother McGlamary for his years of service and wish him a long and fulfilling retirement.


Larry McGlamary