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March 2021

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John A. Hunter

John A. Hunter, a retired Ninth District international representative whose abundant gifts and goodwill are legendary among his friends and colleagues, died Jan. 5. He was 83.

"I think he's one of the finest men that ever inhabited this earth," retired Martinez, Calif., Local 302 Business Manager Mike Yarbrough said. "He was a strong leader, fair, good to everybody. I can't speak highly enough about John. Everyone loved him."

Other colleagues were just as emphatic, saying how fortunate they were to know Hunter during the 46 years he devoted to the IBEW, starting as a Local 302 apprentice in 1957.

"He was IBEW through and through." said John O'Rourke, Ninth District international vice president. "He cared deeply about all the members."

Raised in Richmond, Calif., Hunter spent his life in the San Francisco Bay Area. But after graduating as a journeyman wireman, jobs were scarce. Soon, he and "tool buddy" Jack McCann, another newly minted journeyman, hit the road in search of work, landing jobs at a Cold War missile site in Yuba, Calif.

The men and their wives forged lifelong bonds that included many camping and fishing trips as they raised their families. For a half-century, until McCann's death last March, "He and Jack were joined at the hip, the best of friends," O'Rourke said.

Both rose to be business manager of Local 302, starting with McCann. Hunter, his deputy, took the reins in 1979, when McCann began an 18-year run as Ninth District IVP.

Hunter was re-elected business manager twice before joining the international staff in 1987, serving until he retired in 2002. His assignments included San Francisco Local 6, where he swore in O'Rourke as business manager in 1999.

"He was my mentor and my dear friend," O'Rourke said. "He helped me become the leader I am."

He and others marveled at how deftly Hunter swayed people to his point of view.

"John had a way of coming in and talking to me, a way of getting me to move in a direction I was not prepared to move," O'Rourke said. But it was a nudge, not a shove.

"He'd pose a question that would prompt me to see a perspective I hadn't seen before," he said. "He'd leave my office and I'd wonder, 'How did he get me to do that?'"

Retired Ninth District IVP Mike Mowery said Hunter worked his magic on friends and adversaries alike.

"He was such a decent human being, so kind and considerate with everybody, always a gentleman," he said. But never a pushover.

"John could get people to 'yes' in an arbitration or negotiation, and you'd shake your heads and say, 'How?' He did it in such a smooth fashion that you didn't even notice," Mowery said.

Ninth District International Representative Dominic Nolan credits Hunter with making his IBEW career possible.

Nolan immigrated to the United States in the 1980s from Ireland, where he'd done a formal apprenticeship with high standards comparable to the IBEW's. But locals then mainly focused on training their own members, he said, and turned him away.

The climate changed under International President J.J. Barry in the late 1980s. "He came out with a dictate to organize," Nolan said. "John Hunter took that seriously. He didn't just give it lip service.

"John would go into the local unions and say, 'What are you doing about organizing, what are the changes you're making, have you allocated staff? Show me your plans,'" he said. "He came in and told everybody to organize, and I'm one of the recipients of that."

Hunter's influence as a representative and McCann's leadership as IVP, along with both men's popularity, shined a spotlight on their suburban local. Colleagues teasingly called it the "mother local" of the San-Francisco based Ninth District.

"Some of the IRs used to give me a hard time about it," said Yarbrough, who followed Hunter as business manager of Local 302. But they knew they were lucky.

"Having John Hunter and Jack McCann is like having Mays and McCovey," he said, invoking the Hall-of-Fame batting duo who put the Giants on the map.

One of Hunter's retirement joys was a standing Monday breakfast at local diner Country Waffles with his yacht club buddies, the club being an old paddleboat at the marina. When he couldn't drive any longer, Yarbrough took him.

"The waitress there called us 'ROMEO' — retired old men eating out," he said. "The Monday before the shelter-in-place order came down in March of last year, we didn't know it then, but that was our last breakfast with John."

An avid fisherman, Hunter loved showing pictures of him posing with a big catch, often admitting with pride that it was his wife, Carol, who reeled it in.

They were married 62 years. "You'd see them together and say, 'that's what a happily married couple looks like,'" O'Rourke said, noting how Hunter relentlessly urged friends to plan weekly date nights with their wives.

In addition to Carol, Hunter is survived by their three sons John, Mike and Steve, two sisters, eleven grandchildren, and three great-grandchildren. In a colorful newspaper obituary, his family honored his love for the IBEW, his passion for helping people, including volunteering for his area's Community Emergency Response Team, and his "unique ability to turn any situation into a positive for all involved."

On behalf of all officers, members and staff, the IBEW extends its sincere condolences to Brother Hunter's family and friends, with immense gratitude for his decades of contributions.


John A. Hunter

John P. Widener Jr.

Retired International Representative John Widener died on Nov. 21, six days after his 89th birthday.

Widener was born in Johnson City, Tenn. When he was 10, his father moved the family to Washington, D.C.

After graduating from Woodrow Wilson High School in 1951, Widener joined the Naval Air Reserve Training Unit, where he took classes on electricity and electronics. His interests eventually led him to the IBEW, where he was initiated into Washington Local 26 in 1954. But he wasn't quite finished with his military service.

"President Kennedy activated his unit during the Cuban Missile Crisis," said Widener's wife, JoAnn; he served on active duty with the Navy as an anti-submarine air crew member from 1961 to 1962.

When Widener returned to full-time civilian life, "He used to work at a lot of different hospitals in the Washington area," JoAnn Widener recalled, including Prince George's Hospital in Bladensburg, Md.

Widener also started to become active with Local 26 and with the labor movement in the greater Washington area, putting together an impressive résumé over the length of his union career. He served on a number of Local 26 committees: safety, organizing, labor/management, political education (COPE), negotiating, pension, health/welfare, plus joint apprenticeship and training. He also was an instructor at the local's Joint Apprenticeship Training Center from 1971 to 1975, and then its director from 1975 to 1985.

"He was a hard worker," JoAnn Widener said. "I supported him in everything he wanted to do. He was very serious and dignified."

Outside of the IBEW, Widener served on the executive committee for the Washington Building Trades and as vice president of the Maryland/D.C. Construction Trades Council. He also was active with the Virginia State AFL-CIO Building Trades Council and served as a delegate to the IBEW's 1986 and 1991 international conventions.

His labor activism didn't stop at the end of the workday. Widener volunteered for IBEW-supported charities, including the Leukemia and Lymphoma Foundation, Dollars Against Diabetes, Christmas in April and the U.S. Marine Corps' Toys for Tots program.

In 1989, he was elected Washington Building Trades Man of the Year. That same year, he was elected to serve as Local 26's business manager, a position he held for three years — until then-International President J.J. Barry appointed him to serve as an international representative with the Construction Department.

At the International Office, Widener was assigned to work primarily on committees relating to electrical codes and standards. He served as a member of the correlating committee for the National Electrical Code, as chairman of the National Fire Protection Association's committee on industrial machinery electrical equipment standards, and as a member of the NFPA's committee on electrical safety requirements for employer workplaces.

Widener also worked on the standards review committees for Underwriter Laboratories and for the National Electrical Manufacturers Association/American National Standards Institute.

Not one to sit still in his spare time, Widener was a member of Anacostia Lodge No. 21 of the Free and Accepted Masons, Almas Shriners, Scottish Rite of Freemasonry, and Order of the Eastern Star. He also helped out with Local 26's retired members' club.

"He was a churchgoing man, too," said JoAnn Widener, noting that her husband had served as head usher of his local United Methodist church. "We met in church, in fact," she added. The couple married in 1966.

Widener retired in 1998 and moved to Fort Valley, Va., in 2003. There, he enjoyed gardening and serving as an active member of Otterbein United Methodist Church.

"He loved our country place," JoAnn Widener said. "He did a lot of the building himself."

On behalf of our entire membership, the officers and staff send our condolences to JoAnn and the rest of Brother Widener's family.


John P. Widener Jr.