Steelworker and activist Virginia Ohren killed when truck crashes into her house

VIRGINIA OHREN died of injuries she suffered on July 5 when a truck crashed into her home in Granite City.

Granite City, IL –Virginia Ohren, the much-loved and respected United Steelworkers retiree and community activist, died of injuries suffered when a truck crashed into her home on July 5, 2021.

Ohren, 73, worked for 33 years at the U.S. Steel Granite City Works, starting in 1977 in the yard maintenance department, and then doing repair jobs throughout the plant that required manual labor and tools like jackhammers and shovels.

“She was strong and fearless,” said Doug May, a Local 1899 retiree. “Once she transferred to the steelmaking-caster department, she worked for many years around the molten steel, wearing the customary aluminum coat and various layers of PPE.”

In retirement, she was one of the most active members of the Granite City Steelworkers Organization of Active Retirees (SOAR) Chapter 7-34-2, contributing food and money and working for good causes.

Ohren died on the night of July 5 when a pickup truck crashed into her residence in the 1900 block of Joy Avenue.

Jonathan M. Beasley, 47, also of Granite City, was charged with causing Ohren’s death while driving under the influence. Bond was set at $200,000.

“Anyone who knew her respected her strength, her work ethic, and her very vocal and shared strong opinions, when she would often rally the troops with passionate discussions,” May said. “Virginia’s efforts to engage members to support public policy and her strong belief in solidarity for Organized Labor were incomparable.

“She contributed many hours to Women of Steel before retirement as well,” he added. “Virginia always attended our SOAR meetings and often expressed her deep commitment, asking for members to donate time for faith-based organizations or many uncelebrated outreach groups. She is irreplaceable and will be missed dearly.”

Elizabeth Scrafford, organizing manager for the Piasa Sierra Club, said Ohren was a highly valued member

“Virginia was the first one to step up and purchase a ticket for whatever the goodwill effort fundraiser may have been,” she said. “She was always there to help.”

Jeff Raines, president of SOAR Chapter 7-34-2, said Ohren was always giving people rides to medical appointments, bringing canned goods to group meetings and serving as an active member of Johnson Road Baptist Church.

“You name it, she did it,” he said. “I’m so proud of her. What a wonderful woman!”

Virginia Ohren was born Dec. 22, 1947, in Breese, Ill., to the late Alphonse and Evelyn Schleper. She married John “Jack” Ohren in Edwardsville in 1969. He died in 1998.

Surviving are daughter Karen Ann LaFrance, of St. Jacob, son Leonard L. Ohren, of Belleville, sister Genevieve Rensing, of Alhambra, brother Richard Schleper, of Highland, and five grandchildren, Kyle and Kaleb LaFrance and Haileigh, Breanna and Eli Ohren.

Visitation and services were held July 17 at Johnson Road General Baptist Church, Granite City, with burial at Highland City Cemetery. Memorials may be made to the church. Wojstrom Funeral Home handled arrangements.


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