Robert “Bobby” Sansone, longtime head of St. Louis’ powerful Teamsters organization throughout the 1980s, died Friday, Aug. 19, 2016 of respiratory illness. He was 78.
For a dozen years, Brother Sansone was Missouri’s top Teamster as president of Joint Council 13, which represented St. Louis’ 35,000 members, president of the Central Conference of Teamsters, past president of Teamsters Local 682, past president of Missouri-Kansas of Teamsters, trustee on the Central States Pension Fund and executive secretary-treasurer of the St. Louis Building and Construction Trades Council.
He also served as Labor’s co-chairman of PRIDE (now the St. Louis Construction Cooperative), St. Louis’ nationally recognized group that strives for labor-management harmony in the construction industry.
Marvin Kropp, the current president of Joint Council 13, described Brother Sansone as a man who worked tirelessly to advance the St. Louis Labor Movement and mentored many.
“I can still remember walking the picket line with him during NFL player strike in the 1980s at old Busch Stadium assisting the St. Louis football Cardinals.” Kropp said. “If there was a Labor problem Bob was there.”
One of the things that made Brother Sansone beloved in the Labor Movement,” Kropp said, was his uncanny ability with names.
“He could meet you one time but he would remember your name, and if your wife and kids were there, he would remember their names as well and ask about them the next time he saw you.
“He was just a great guy and the treated everybody the same,” Kropp said. “It didn’t matter who you were whether you were a political official or a custodian at one of the shops. He respected everyone he met and treated everyone the same.
“He was tough negotiator, but fair, and he could get things done in St. Louis at that time. He always cared about the members and it showed through his tireless efforts to always advance the St. Louis Labor Movement."
Those sentiments were echoed by Jeff Aboussie, executive secretary-treasurer of the Building Trades.
“Bobby always put the members first, whether it was the membership of International Brotherhood of Teamsters or the members of the Building Trades whom he served. I think when Bobby retired he really missed serving the membership, and they missed him as well,” Aboussie said.
Brother Sansone started work at the age of 16, when he got a Teamsters union card to drive a dump truck at a concrete plant in St. Louis. When he got out of the Army at the age of 26, he was hired as a business agent at Local 682 and worked his way up the ranks to become business manager.
Brother Sansone was a devout Catholic, and for the last several years spent his Sunday mornings serving coffee at St. Vincent DePaul Parish, which provides outreach to the homeless,
Survivors include his wife of 30 years, Terri Sansone, of Chesterfield; sons Nicholas Sansone, 44, of Fairview Heights, and Joseph Sansone, 47, of St. Louis; a sister, Mary Ann Barthelmass; and two grandchildren.
Visitation is Tuesday from 3-8 p.m. at Kutis Affton Chapel, 10151 Gravois Road. Funeral services will begin at 10:15 a.m. Wednesday at the chapel with 11 a.m. Mass at St. Anselm Catholic Parish. Interment follows at Resurrection Ceremony, 6901 Mackenzie Road.
Donations can be made to St. Vincent DePaul Parish, 1408 South 10th Street, St. Louis, Mo., 63104; or Most Holy Trinity Scholarship Fund in care of the St. Anselm Parish, 530 South Mason Road, Creve Coeur, Mo., 63141.