By MARY ANN HOLLEY
Aurora, IL – The International Association of Machinists is mourning the loss of two IAM Local 1202 members and three employees of the Henry Pratt Company in Aurora, IL during a mass shooting at the facility on Feb. 15.
The more than 60 IAM members who work at the facility make specialized valves for municipal water systems.
“The IAM family is distraught about the terrible tragedy at the Henry Pratt Co.,” said IAM International President Bob Martinez. “Our members at Local 1202—and every working man and woman—should be able to go home to their loved ones at the end of each and every work day. Our heart breaks for the victims’ families and the entire community.
“The IAM is working to ensure our members get the assistance they need to move forward with their lives,” Martinez said. “I want to personally thank the Midwest Territory, District 8 and the Aurora community for wrapping their arms around our members and their families during this difficult time. We are also extremely grateful for the first responders who put their lives on the line that fateful day. I send thoughts, prayers and condolences on behalf of over 600,000 Machinists across North America.”
‘THEY SHOULD NEVER BE FORGOTTEN’
IAM Midwest Territory General Vice President Steve Galloway said there are no words to express thankfulness to first responders, IAM Local 1202, IAM District 8 Directing Business Representative Steve Jones and his entire staff, IAM Headquarters, the Mueller Company, and the entire Aurora community for their quick response in the wake of the tragedy.
“We continue to send our thoughts and prayers to the victims’ families and all those affected by this tragic event,” said Galloway.
District 9 Directing Business Representative Mark Conner said he was deeply saddened by the loss of these hard-working members.
“No one should go to work and expect their lives to be taken that day,” Conner said. “These days of gun violence must stop. The senseless loss of these members cuts deep.”
IAM District 8 Directing Business Representative Steve Jones said, “They should never be forgotten. I am also in awe of the love and support those affected have received from their communities. I give a sincere thanks to all that have given their time, thoughts and prayers to the families, our union, company and community.”
Flags were lowered to half-staff at IAM headquarters in Upper Marlboro, MD in honor and remembrance of the five victims. A vigil was held near the plant on Feb. 17 in honor of the lives lost.
- Russell Beyer, 47, was a more than 28-year member of IAM Local 1202 and served as Shop Chairman.
“Russell was a fun, loving gentle giant of a guy, who was friends with everyone,” says the Beyer family. “Russell would truly give you the shirt off of his back. He was an extremely proud and dedicated union guy. A great dad, son, brother, and uncle. Russell will be forever missed by his family and so many more!”
He is survived by two children, his parents, two siblings, one niece, one nephew and his “loyal companion” Billy Bob, his dog.
- Vicente Juarez, 54, was a 13-year member of IAM Local 1202 and worked as a fork lift operator.
“He was a hardworking, responsible and loving husband, father and grandfather,” says the Juarez family. “Vicente could always be heard shouting out loud ‘Ay Mija’ any time the weather took a turn for the worse, all while comforting his family with laughs. Vicente had a passion for working on cars with his sons and had a soft spot for a particular 1969 Chevy Impala.”
He is survived by his loving wife of 38 years, Leticia (Lupercio) Juarez, three children, eight grandchildren, and eight siblings.
- Josh Pinkard, 37, a native of Alabama, Pinkard became plant manager at Henry Pratt in the spring of 2018.
“He loved God, his family and Mississippi State sports,” a cousin wrote in a text to the Chicago Tribune that he said was written on behalf of Pinkard’s wife, Terra Pinkard. He is survived by his wife and three children.
- Clayton Parks, 32, joined Henry Pratt as human resource manager in November 2018. He is survived by an infant son and wife, Abby Parks, who characterized him as “my husband, my love, my best friend.”
- Trevor Wehner, 21, a senior at Northern Illinois University, worked as a Human Resource Intern under Parks. Friday, Feb. 15, was his first day.
“He had a smile that would light up the room,” says the Wehner family, “and always had a silly joke or comment to say. He was fun-loving and made friends with everyone young and old.” He is survived by his parents and step-father, three brothers, one sister and grandparents.
One additional IAM member was injured in the shooting, as were six members of the Aurora Police Department.
HELP FOR VICTIMS’ FAMILIES
The Pratt facility was closed for production in the aftermath of the shooting, but the company kept doors open to employees who wanted to come by to spend time with colleagues and/or receive grief counseling made available through the Machinists Transportation Department’s Critical Incident Response Teams (CIRT) and the Machinists Employee Assistance Program.
Mueller Water Products, Pratt’s parent company, is covering all funeral costs and medical expenses for the victims.
A GoFundMe page has been established to provide additional financial support for the victims’ families. Visit tinyurl.com/y3uk7urc to donate.