Iron Workers 396 retiree receives hero’s welcome after recovering from COVID-19



A HERO’S WELCOME: About 60 family members and friends lined the 4600 block of Gravois Road in House Springs June 4 to welcome home Iron Workers Local 396 retiree Ray Swarts, who was just released from the hospital after recovering from COVID-19. – Labor Tribune photo

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.

“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.

RAY SWARTS, a proud 56-year member of Iron Workers Local 396, waves to the crowd on Gravois Road welcoming him home after spending 153 days hospitalized from COVID-19. – Labor Tribune photo

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.

“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.

SURPRISE! Tracy Swarts-Poole (behind the wheel) brought her dad Ray Swarts to the House Springs Lion’s Club to meet with a deputy from the Jefferson County Sheriff’s Department to escort them up and down Gravois Road for the event. Here, Brother Swarts has no idea what’s about to happen. – Labor Tribune photo
SHOW OF SOLIDARITY: Iron Workers Local 396 members were on hand to show their solidarity and support. Saluting Brother Swarts were (from left) Local 396 Business Agent Travis Barnes, retiree Russell Swarts (Ray’s brother), President Mike Heibeck and retiree Jeff (Uncle Jeff) Heibeck. – Labor Tribune photo

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.)





  1. We were so very proud of the support Ray has received. He is very special and we know God will keep him in his hands and his wife Becky Swartz will always be by his side in spirit. This is one amazing couple, god bless this family🙏🙏

    • Thank you Michelle. Very kind words.

      We never imagined the support we had from so many family, friends and strangers through this journey. I wish we could thank them all individually.


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