By SHERI GASSAWAY
The Rev. Richard Creason and Mo. Sen. Gina Walsh (D-Bellefontaine Neighbors) received top honors at this year’s Robert O. Kortkamp Memorial Awards Luncheon.
The event, sponsored by the Missouri Alliance for Retired Americans (MOARA), celebrates Kortkamp’s strong personal commitment on behalf of working families, people with disabilities and senior citizens. A former business representative for Machinists, District 9, Kortkamp served as secretary-treasurer of the St. Louis Labor Council, AFL-CIO, for 17 years before retiring to full-time volunteer work in 1995. About 120 people attended the award ceremony, which was held June 11 at Christy’s Banquet Center in St. Louis.
FATHER RICHARD CREASON
Father Creason, a labor and community activist and pastor at Most Holy Trinity Catholic Church in north St. Louis, received the Kortkamp Humanitarian Award. He is well known for offering a hard-hitting, pro-labor homily at the annual Robert O. Kortkamp Memorial Union Labor Mass, which was founded by Kortkamp 36 years ago.
Tom Hadican, a long-time friend of Father Creason and a sales associate for Dave Sinclair Ford in south St. Louis County, presented the award. Hadican said Father Creason, who has spent the majority of his priesthood serving north St. Louis City and County, has been a blessing to him and his family.
“Father Creason has brought peace, hope, love and joy to every community he’s served, and he’s been successful,” Hadican said. “He’s also been instrumental in delivering working families justice, dignity and fairness in the workforce.”
Father Creason said he was truly humbled to receive the honor. He noted that no such award is won alone and thanked those that make the world more just, peaceful and equitable.
“The whole act of building a community is the work of the faith and labor movement, and the connection that the church and labor has had for years is precious,” Father Creason said. “It’s an honor to stand before working men and women of labor and share God’s words.”
SEN. GINA WALSH
Sen. Walsh, who was elected to the Missouri Senate after serving four terms as a state representative serving North County, received the Kortkamp Legislator of the Year Award. Walsh is a retired member of the Heat & Frost Insulators Local 1 and currently serves as president of the Missouri State Building and Construction Trades Council, AFL-CIO.
Walsh was the first woman to go through Local 1’s apprenticeship program and is the first woman elected as president of the State Building Trades.
Tom George, president of IBEW Local 1, and himself a former state legislator, presented the award. George said he’s known Walsh since he was 18 and was her mentor for two years.
“After that, I turned to her for advice,” George said. “She’s very good at the game she plays in Jefferson City, and she’s dedicated to Missouri seniors and working families. There are no words to describe how great she is.”
Walsh, whose parents instilled her values of working class people, said she was honored to receive the award. She added that she was grateful for her training and work through Local 1 because it allowed her to provide opportunities for her children that she might otherwise not have had.
“Elected people like me, we’re just a mouthpiece,” Walsh said. “We need to educate our youth, especially when it comes to issues affecting seniors and the working class.”
Walsh also urged continued efforts to thwart right-to-work legislation in Missouri. She said, “Gov. (Jay) Nixon was our fail-safe by vetoing this session’s right-to-work bill, but we can’t be complacent. We have to make sure the votes hold on this horrible, very bad law.”
The Alliance for Retired Americans is a nationwide organization founded in 2001 to mobilize retired seniors and community activists. Kortkamp formed the Missouri Alliance (MoARA) and was elected president shortly thereafter. The Missouri Alliance currently has more than 87,000 members.
For more information on MoARA, call 314-291-8666.