Former APWU National Officers Pass Away

March 18, 2020

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(This article first appeared in the March/April 2020 issue of the American Postal Worker magazine)

John R. Smith

John R. Smith (known by most as “JR”), former Retirees Department Director, passed away Jan. 11, at the age of 91. Brother Smith was the first ever director of the Retirees Department. He served in this position from 1993-2005 when he retired from the APWU. After the merger that created the APWU in 1971, Brother Smith was appointed as national vice president of the APWU’s Mail Handler Craft (the Mail Handler Division continued for decades in the APWU). In 1981, Brother Smith returned to Dayton, and was president of Dayton Ohio Area Local for 11 years until his appointment as Retirees Director upon the creation of the department in 1993.

A committed fighter for labor and civil rights, Brother Smith traveled to South Africa in 1994 with six other APWU officers as part of an 89-member AFL-CIO delegation to observe the first free and fair election in the country that resulted in Nelson Mandela winning the Presidency.

“This has been the most rewarding work,” Smith said when he retired as Retirees Director in 2005. “Helping people to make the most important decisions they have to make in their entire lives ... not only in deciding when to retire, but in helping them make the decisions they will have to make once they have retired.”

Linda Coleman

Linda Lee Coleman, former Clerk Division National Business Agent for the Washington, D.C. region, died Dec. 24, at the age of 81. A member of the Nation’s Capital Southern MD Area Local Retiree Chapter, Sister Coleman was the first woman in her local to serve on its negotiating team and the first woman elected as president of the Maryland State/District of Columbia APWU. Coleman was active in APWU POWER, and attended the first POWER convention in Detroit in 1980.

In 1989, Coleman became one of the first seven female national officers when she was elected as a National Business Agent.

Lawrence "Larry" Gervais

Lawrence “Larry” Gervais, former Clerk Division National Business Agent for the Minneapolis region, passed away on Feb. 14 at the age of 78. A former clerk, Brother Gervais participated in the 1970 Great Postal Strike, when the strike spread to St. Paul, MN.

Brother Gervais became a National Representative for the National Postal Union shortly after the strike, and continued in the position following the 1971 merger that formed the APWU. He continued as a national officer until 1989, when he returned to St. Paul and accepted an appointment as a Special Assistant to the President, working in that position until his retirement in 1996.

Samuel "Sam" Anderson

Samuel “Sam” Anderson, former National Special Delivery Messenger Division Director, passed on Feb. 19 at the age of 81.

A committed unionist, Brother Anderson began his postal career in 1963 and remained active as a leader and mentor in the years that followed.

Brother Anderson also served as President of the Chicago Local, and as the local’s representative to the Chicago Federation of Labor. He became an APWU national officer in 1983.

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