By SHERI GASSAWAY
House Springs, MO – After spending 153 days in five medical facilities recovering from COVID-19, Iron Workers Local 396 retiree Ray Swartz was finally released from the hospital and welcomed back to his hometown here by smiling faces and cheerful signs.
About 60 family members, friends and fellow iron workers gathered along the 4600 block of Gravois Road near Price Chopper to salute the 56-year Local 396 member.
Local 396 President Mike Heibeck, Business Agent Travis Barnes and retirees Jeff (Uncle Jeff) Heibeck and Ray’s brother, Russell Swarts, were on hand for the event with a big Iron Workers Local 396 sign.
SHOWING SOLIDARITY AND SUPPORT
“Ray is a lifetime member of Iron Workers Local 396, and we’re here to show our solidarity and support for him,” Mike Heibeck said.
Jeff Heibeck added, “We’re a tight-knit group.”
Swarts’ son, Gregg Swarts who is a Sheet Metal Workers Local 36 member, and daughter, Tracy Swarts-Poole and other family members planned the event. The Swarts lost their mother, Becky Swarts, to COVID-19 earlier this year.
PROUD LOCAL 396 MEMBER
“Dad comes from a long line of iron workers,” Gregg Swarts said. “He is a proud member of his union and loved the job. He always talks about it, and he reads the Labor Tribune cover-to-cover every week.”
The welcome home party was a surprise for Ray Swarts. His daughter picked him up from the hospital and then met with a deputy from the Jefferson County Sheriff’s Department at the House Springs Lion’s Club.
The deputy escorted the car up and down Gravois Road. Other Jefferson County emergency responders and their vehicles also lined the street to welcome him home.
(Special thanks to Laborers Local 110 Business Agent Rob Reed for alerting the Labor Tribune of the event. Reed is friends with the Swarts family. Their fathers worked together at the same company.)