Saturday, October 2, 2010

In Memoriam: Bob Voorhies (1946-2010)

I just learned that local union icon and my friend, Bob Voorhies, passed away yesterday from cancer. He was 64.

Bob lived a wonderful, full life in his 64 years. Sadly, He becomes the second local union icon to pass this year with the death of Lettie Oliver earlier in the year.

I can't remember where I first met Bob Voorhies, but I know I didn't miss him in the room afterwards anywhere that I saw him. Bob was hard to miss. His voice, his laugh, and his manner were hard to ignore. I was also honored to be in the room for a few of his rafters shaking stump speeches that could inspire a slug to great things.

In all the time I knew Bob, I never knew him to do anything halfway. The final months of his life illustrate this so well. Despite being very ill, Bob continued to be out and about and doing the things people have known him to do. He spoke at the Democratic slating convention in February, was a the Democratic Unity Picnic in August, and, at the beginning of last month, was at the Labor Day Parade. As you will see from his obituary (published below), a great portion of his life was spent working in organized labor and rising to great heights there.

To say that his work was his only life would be incorrect. Bob was a family man. For the Voorhies family, I grieve. It's a cruel blow, but I am sure there is some solace to know that the pain is all gone now and that Bob is at peace. I express my deepest condolences, and my heart is broken for you all.

Julie Voorhies, the Marion County Recorder and Bob's wife, told me several times over the last few months that this blog made Bob's final months on this Earth better. For that, I am truly honored. It's people like Bob that inspire me to continue this blog for Bob fought the good fight for the rights of workers and those that depend on them. Bob inspired us all.

So, here's to Bob Voorhies. Let his memory inspire you to do good in this world...just like he did.

Robert H. (“Bob”) Voorhies, age 64, passed away peacefully at his home in Indianapolis surrounded by family on Friday, October 1, 2010 due to complications brought on by cancer.

Bob was born to Hayden Leroy (“Bob”) and Dorothy Rosemary Voorhies in Indianapolis, Indiana on August 19, 1946. Bob was the youngest of four siblings; his sisters were Beverly Jeffers, Roberta Gipson, and Carmen Voorhies.

Bob was married to the love of his life, Julie in 1997 after a long courtship.

Bob was a lifelong Westsider and graduated from Ben Davis High School. Bob studied labor relations at Antioch College in Washington, D.C. and at IUPUI in his hometown.

Bob was awarded the State of Indiana's highest honor by being named a Sagamore of the Wabash by Governor Evan Bayh in 1993. Bob also received a Lifetime Achievement Award from the Indianapolis branch of the NAACP in 2007. These awards, and many others Bob received over the years, were in recognition of his tireless dedication to justice, equality, the cause of labor, and the building of a better Indianapolis for everyone.

Bob served as the President of the AFL-CIO Central Labor Council of Central Indiana for 25 years. In this position, Bob was a fierce and outspoken champion for labor and made his constituents' voices heard in every proposed project, major issue, or election in Central Indiana. During his time with the AFL-CIO, Bob gave back to his community by partnering labor in Central Indiana with the United Way.

Bob served on the Board of the Indianapolis Airport Authority for many years and he was proud to have been a part of the building of the new IND mid-field airport. Bob also served on several other civic boards or committees throughout his life including the Greater Indianapolis Progress Committee, the Sheriff's Merit Board, and the Transition Team for former Mayor Bart Peterson.

Bob worked as an electrician and lineman for Indianapolis Power & Light for many years and helped organize the first IBEW branch (local 1395) in Indianapolis, of which he served as Vice-president.

Bob was best known for his sense of humor throughout his life. He was portrayed as the class clown in his high school yearbook and continued to make everyone around him laugh, even up to his very last day. Bob was also known as an expert political strategist and grass roots organizer. He counseled many of Indiana's prominent politicians on how to win and worked every election to get the vote out in Indianapolis.

Bob is survived by his wife, Julie, children, Kimberly Strader (Trent), Brett Voorhies (Angie), and Kelly Beaudry (Tom), stepchildren, Stephen Werner (Sarah) and Elizabeth Duncan, grandchildren, Neil, Hayden, Nicholas, Madison, Kennedy, Isaah, Kalianna, Veda, and Hendrix, and sister Roberta Gipson.

Bob was predeceased by both of his parents, sisters, Beverly and Carmen, and his beloved dog, Layla.

A Memorial Service will be held for Bob at Flanner and Buchanan, 2950 High School Road, Speedway, Indianapolis. Viewing will be Monday, October 4, 2010, 3:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m. Burial will be Tuesday October 5, 2010 at 1:00 p.m.

In lieu of flowers memorial contributions may be made to Julie Voorhies.

“I love you, don't ever change.” - Bob Voorhies

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