Our union, Local 1503 in Marysville, Kan., the Kansas State Legislative Board and GCA 953 mourn the loss of Brother Benjamin “Ben” Berger.
A strong union brother always willing to do his part for his union, his community, and his family, he was reported missing earlier this week and his body was found late Thursday night. Unfortunately, authorities say he did not survive a car wreck on Saturday, February 17, the day he went missing.
Ben was a Union Pacific conductor and a proud member of Local 1503. He hired out in North Platte, Nebraska, in 2011 and was with SMART-TD for all 13 years he has been on the rail. Berger also donated his time away from the rail to his community as a member of his local volunteer fire department.
With Brother Berger’s passing, SMART-TD is asking our union brothers and sisters to lend support to Ben’s wife and family in their time of need. Kansas State Legislative Director Ty Dragoo, a fellow member of Local 1503, has organized an online fundraiser to benefit Brother Berger’s loved ones. If able, please donate in memory of our fallen brother.
The SMART Transportation Division offers its sincere condolences to Brother Berger’s friends, family, his Local 1503 brother’s and sisters and all who knew him in this difficult time of loss.
“Charlie was well liked by everyone he came across and loved by those privileged to know him well. Constantly smiling and showing off pictures of his wife, fur babies, family, and his quail, Charlie was of good character and always projected a happy soul,” LC Relic wrote in the fundraiser. “He will forever be remembered.”
Visitation is scheduled 2 to 3 p.m. Friday, February 16, 2024, at Finch Funeral Chapel in La Vernia, Texas, with a memorial service beginning at 3.
The SMART Transportation Division expresses its sincere condolences to Brother Scherbarth’s family, his Local 210 brothers and sisters and all who knew him.
“I’m sure anyone who knows Dexter will agree we were all truly blessed to call him our friend, and the amount of lives he touched is insurmountable,” wrote friend David Killingsworth, who organized the fundraiser. “The family he’s left behind has been shaken to their core.”
Visitation is scheduled 9 to 11 a.m. Jan. 5 at Lighthouse Church Cook County, 4501 W. 127th St., Alsip, IL 60803 with services immediately following from 11 a.m. to 1:30 p.m.
Burial will take place in Glenwood, Illinois.
A celebration of Brother Perkins’ life will occur Jan. 7 beginning at 11 a.m. at the Piazza Aurora, 85 Executive Dr, Aurora, IL, 60504. For information, visit the After Life Chicago website.
SMART-TD expresses its sincere condolences to Brother Perkins’ family, friends and all who knew him.
It is with heavy hearts that the members of the SMART Transportation Division and Local 857 mourn the passing of colleague and friend, Michael Moilanen. Michael served as a conductor for Amtrak and was a valued member of Local 857 out of San Antonio, Texas. Michael’s untimely departure has left a profound void in our union family and his tight-knit crew base.
Michael, who was just 43 years old, was known for his high railroad IQ and all-around intelligence. He worked as a conductor and an assistant conductor and had a decade on the rail with Amtrak. His dedication to his work and his willingness to share his knowledge was a testament to his character.
In the words of another Local 857 conductor — “Michael was a great guy to work with. He was the kind of guy you looked forward to getting called with. Conversations with Michael were always interesting. He was a very smart guy and had a great way of explaining things in a way that was relatable. Michael was a good railroader too. He didn’t just know the rules, he understood the reasoning behind them. He was the guy you wanted to have on the train with you. Michael was one of those guys you knew you could trust. He will be very missed around here.”
Beyond his dedication to his railroad family, Michael was a loving husband to his wife, Kayla, and a devoted father to their two children, Audrey and Ethan. Audrey, now a college freshman in New Mexico, and Ethan, who is turning 7 this month, were the light of Michael’s life. He cherished every moment he spent with his family and his love for them was immeasurable.
Michael Moilanen’s journey was cut short far too soon as he passed away at the away-from-home terminal in the hotel in Fort Worth, Texas, while working Amtrak 22, better known as the Texas Eagle.
Michael’s memory will live on in the hearts of those who had the privilege of knowing him, working alongside him and riding his train. He was a remarkable colleague, a loving father, and a devoted husband, and his loss is deeply felt by all who knew him.
As a union, we are reaching out to request your support of one of our brothers in his moment of need. Brother Greg Nunez from SMART-TD Local 898 (Boston, Mass.) has been a SMART-TD member for over nine years.
He works as a conductor for Keolis in commuter service. More importantly, Nunez has a young family at home in the Greater Boston area, and the circumstances surrounding a kidney and pancreatic transplant surgery have him stranded in Orlando, Florida away from his two beautiful children and his family support network.
After years of hoping and waiting for that call, Greg had the good fortune of being paired with a donor of a kidney and pancreas that was compatible. The only problem was that the donor was in Orlando, Florida, 1,293 miles away from Boston.
Initially, this meant an insignificant 2 1/2-hour flight. Unfortunately for Brother Nunez, this surgery that was the key to unlocking a long and productive future with his family has taken a turn for the worse, and he is stranded in Orlando in need of funds to pay for a Med-Flight back to Massachusetts.
Post-surgery, Brother Nunez suffered a stroke due to the effects his life-long battle with diabetes has had on his body. He has subsequently undergone seven surgeries and is currently on machines to assist his breathing.
His wife, Katherine, has been with him in Florida for an extended period, but the strain of being with her recuperating spouse in Orlando while raising a family in Boston is as expensive as it is exhausting.
John Trembczynski, vice local chairperson of LCA 623/IHB, and former three-term Local President of Local 1381 (Hammond, Ind.) has been forced into early retirement due to a series of bouts with cancer.
Brother Trembcynski has been on the railroad as a conductor and engineer for Chicago Rail Link, Norfolk Southern and Indiana Harbor Belt since his honorable discharge from the United States Navy in 1988.
Having served SMART-TD and our predecessor, the UTU, in many capacities, Trembczynski has led as a vice local chairperson, a GCA vice chairperson, and local president spanning from the early 1990s until 2022.
In addition to his formal roles, John has always been known as a strong union brother who fights for his members. He has gone out of his way to shepherd new conductors and engineers and has given all of himself to this union.
John has already faced kidney cancer in 2022, as well as a brain tumor that was removed in the spring of 2023. Unfortunately, SMART-TD has recently found out that his cancer is back and has spread to his lungs and other organs. Now is the moment when SMART-TD and its members have an opportunity to give back to Brother Trembczynski for his years of service.
Fellow Local 1381 member Brother Justin Skripac has started a GoFundMe campaign to assist John and his loved ones in his time of need. If you are able to do so, SMART-TD is asking you to consider following this link to Brother Trembczynski’s GoFundMe page and giving what you can.
All who know John know that he is a fighter and the epitome of the guy you never count out. Please help us circle the wagons around him in this moment and show how united SMART-TD is.
The SMART Transportation Division and Local 610 out of Baltimore are mourning the loss of a fallen brother who had his life and career ahead of him.
Derek Scott “D.S.” Little, 28, was days away from marking up for the first time as a certified conductor with CSX and was slated to begin his career as a SMART-TD member on July 1st. Engaged to be married, he was two weeks away from the due date for his first child.
Derek was at a point in his life when everything was coming together perfectly. Tragically, it was all taken away from him the evening of June 26th while working at Seagirt Marine Terminal in Baltimore.
Brother Little was involved in an accident while riding on equipment. He didn’t survive to see the birth of his son Logan Matthew Little, or to be married to his fiancée, Kaytee Burns. Well-liked in the crew room, he had a promising career ahead of him in Local 610. More importantly, as his obituary states, “Derek was a kindhearted, goofy, lovable young man who never missed a chance to make you laugh. He loved his family and friends and was looking forward to being a dad.” Beyond his love for his family, he also enjoyed learning about Civil War history and playing golf.
Railroaders know the financial significance of Derek having passed away four days before being marked up, and the financial significance to his fiancée and mother of his unborn son that comes with the fact that he passed away prior to them being married. His family will not receive the same level of support from the carrier and the insurance companies as they would have under different circumstances.
For that reason, SMART-TD is asking all who can to close ranks around this young railroad family in their worst moment and show what it means to be part of this union.
General Chairperson Craig Patch (GCA-TMM) is facing a diagnosis of brain cancer and a fundraiser has been established to help him and his family through a difficult time.
LCA-TMM Secretary Michael Jenkins said Brother Patch faces a treatment period of a year to 18 months. He will begin chemo treatments Aug. 29.
GC Patch has been a loyal member of our union since he began working at CATS (Charlotte Area Transit System). In addition to his term as GC, he’s been a vice chairperson and legislative representative for Charlotte’s Local 1596.
“Craig has dedicated his service to UTU and SMART as a representative for many years. It is now time for us to give back to him,” Jenkins said. “Any help will be greatly appreciated.”
Brother Reiring joined our union in January 2018 and worked as a conductor for BNSF.
Fellow SMART-TD member Gary Brunt Jr. of Local 1544 (Maywood, Calif.) has established a memorial fund on GoFundMe in memory of Brother Reiring, with whom Brunt had trained when both hired on as BNSF conductors.
“There wasn’t a time he didn’t speak of how much he would want for his daughter, son, or wife, Angie to have. He will forever be remembered for his sacrifice, duty, and love for his family,” Brunt wrote.
Brother Reiring is survived by his wife of 18 years, Angie Vierra; his daughter, Dixie; and his son, Charles III.
Tommy Manuzewski, a probationary member of our union’s Local 1566 (Buffalo, N.Y.), was severely injured in an accident late last month after being struck by a train in a Norfolk Southern yard. Brother Manuzewski’s arm was amputated and his collarbone and multiple vertebrae were broken as well. He underwent successful emergency surgery after being placed in a medically induced coma after the accident, and his recovery likely will take years, doctors have said. Because of his probationary status, his coverage through the railroad benefit system had not begun. In the latest update on Brother Manuszewski’s status published Nov. 6, Local 1566 Legislative Representative Joseph Kaier said that treatment is ongoing, focusing on pain management and in-patient rehabilitation. An online fundraiser has been established by his local to help support Brother Manuzewski on GoFundMe. “Tommy and his family have been devastated by these events,” Kaier wrote. “Tommy’s career as freight conductor is over, and soon his family’s bills will be racking up.” Manuzewski helps care for his elderly parents and was to be married to his fiancee, Tammi Jo Smith, next summer. Please contribute if you are able.