May 19, 2015
Local 23 Member Who Served in Army Now Fights Against Privatization, Volunteers In His Community, and Isn’t Slowing Down
To continue honoring those who have fallen defending our country and its freedom as we approach Memorial Day, here is another Member profile, this time of Local 23 member Bill Swartz, who served in the Army:
For some folks, service to others – whether through the military or charitable endeavors – is just a way of life.
Local 23 member Bill Swartz is just that kind of guy.
At 76 years young, Bill is employed as a clerk for the Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board (PLCB) and still has the energy and makes the time to look out for other people.
In his earlier years, Bill began a career with GTE/Verizon and then answered President Kennedy’s call to service when he joined the army during the Cuban Blockade in 1961. He attained the rank of Sergeant and was part of the Defense Atomic Support Agency which handled communications for all branches of the armed forces. “When I was stationed in Arlington, I worked next to the National Cemetery,” he remembered fondly.
Bill returned to enjoy a 36-year career at GTE/Verizon, where he was a steward, an executive board member and served on the bargaining committee with IBEW Local 1637. After retiring, he went to work for the PLCB “to make a little extra money.” Under their contract with UFCW, the PLCB provides preferred hiring practices to veterans. As a member of UFCW Local 23, Bill has been politically active in fighting against the privatization of that valuable state asset. He really likes the job and recently decided to accept full-time hours.
Bill has a genuine love of working with people and volunteered at the Salvation Army, where he was assigned to the warehouse. “That wasn’t what I had in mind,” he laughed, “I wanted to work WITH people,” so he went to work for his church, Our Lady of Mercy in Harbor Creek, PA.
“My wife and I have led the bereavement ministry in our church for over 20 years,” he said. “They were so good to me after I lost my father that I wanted to give back.”
“Upon the death of a parishioner or family member, we assess their needs for the funeral, provide counseling for the ceremony, and arrange for the lector, greeters, altar servers and whatever else is required,” he explained. With a kind, compassionate demeanor, he is exactly the right person to reach out to grieving families.
Until very recently, Bill was also the Church’s volunteer groundskeeper, maintaining 13 acres that includes a ball field, pond and picnic area. “I had to give that up when I went full-time at the store,” he laughed.
He has also been a regular volunteer at the Harbor Creek Food Pantry for many years.
With energy that belies his age, Bill shows no signs of slowing down.
“I’ve been a union man all my life,” he said, “and it’s been good.”