Phil Bertrand of Orleans, a 45-year-member of Local 793 and former International representative, passed away Saturday, Sept. 1.
He was 65.
Phil was hired as a business representative for the Ottawa area in July 1981. He became an International representative in May 1989 and held that position until his retirement in January 2005.
He recently served as co-chair of the 2012 election committee.
Local 793 business manager Mike Gallagher said Phil will be greatly missed by himself and the union.
“Phil was a staunch supporter of our union and its ideals and was always ready to help out,” said Gallagher. “He was a man of integrity with a quick wit and a keen sense of humour.
“Phil was always ready to lend a helping hand to the union.”
Local 793 president Joe Redshaw said Phil may have been retired but he was still very much involved with the union.
“As co-chair of the 2012 election committee, Phil worked tirelessly to ensure that the election process went smoothly and according to the union constitution and bylaws,” said Redshaw. “He had a great work ethic. We will miss him greatly.”
Union vice president Rick Kerr, area supervisor for Eastern Ontario, said Phil was a warm-hearted person and a true union man.
“He was not a man of big stature but once he believed in a cause he wouldn’t let it go,” said Kerr.
When Kerr started as a business rep with Local 793, Phil took him under his wing and trained him.
One night, Kerr recalls, an operator from Cornwall working on a roadbuilding project in Ottawa let Phil know his vehicle had broken down and he couldn’t get home. Phil drove the member home to Cornwall, then picked him up the next day and drove him back to the jobsite.
“That’s the kind of guy he was,” said Kerr.
Phil, a licensed journeyman crane operator, was initiated into the union on Jan. 16, 1967.
He was originally from Sudbury and moved to Ottawa in the 1970s. He worked for Dulepka Crane Rental in Ottawa.
In 1994 and 1995, Phil, then an International rep, was instrumental in helping Local 793 emerge from supervision under the IUOE. He worked under International supervisor and Canadian regional director Edgar Doull.
As assistant International supervisor, Phil essentially took on the duties of assistant business manager of Local 793 and was very involved in running the union.
During that period, Doull and Bertrand were given the authority in the name of the IUOE to conduct the business, finances, affairs and government of Local 793.
As an operator, Phil spent 14 years on jobsites and had plenty of stories to tell.
In one incident, he was left atop a 1,200-foot-tall smoke stack at a smelter in Sudbury during bad weather.
It was the early 70s and Phil and a crew were working at the top of the stack. The weather was bad. Strong winds had knocked the hoist operator against a wall at ground level. The operator had broken his hip and couldn’t operate the hoist, leaving Phil and other workers stranded atop the stack.
“We just happened to be working up there at the time,” Phil recalled in Local 793’s 90th anniversary publication published in 2009. “That’s the day a big tornado went through Sudbury.”
It was a good three and a half hours before Phil and the workers could be brought down to safety.
“We were up there yelling to get us down,” he recalled in the publication, “but the operator couldn’t get back to the hoist because he had a broken hip, so he couldn’t bring the guys down.
“There were two or three operators stuck up there along with people from other trades. We were just sitting there on the fresh cement.”
A memorial service for Phil was held in Orleans on Sept. 8.
Phil was the beloved husband of Denise; father of Michel (2000) and Angele (Pierre); Papi of Sophie and Nicholas; and brother of Colette (Bill) and Micheline (Wib). He was predeceased by parents Gregoire and Francoise.