Angie Sonnenschein celebrated her father Gene’s birthday by taking coffee and donuts to some of his fellow sheet metal workers
By SHERI GASSAWAY
Sheet Metal Workers Local 36 retiree Gene Sonnenschein, described as a “happy-go-lucky guy who didn’t know a stranger,” was proud of his profession and loved his union and fellow sheet metal workers.
“He would kiss us kids goodbye while we were sleeping and head out while it was still dark, always making sure he got to the site in time to chit chat with his crew before starting the day,” said his daughter Angie Sonnenschein.
Brother Sonnenschein, 63, died Dec. 14 after a battle with brain cancer. He would have turned 64 on Valentine’s Day. The day before his birthday, Angie called Local 36 and spoke with Financial Secretary-Treasurer Jeremy Snyder.
“Angie told me how proud her father was to be a member of Local 36 and how proud she was of him,” Snyder said. “She said that instead of mourning, she wanted to celebrate his birthday by taking coffee and donuts to some of his fellow sheet metal workers.”
Snyder and Local 36 Business Representative Chris Brunnert called a couple job stewards and arranged for the visits. Wearing her dad’s Local 36 jacket, Angie met with Local 36 members at the Harris House Inpatient Treatment Center jobsite in St. Charles and at Wiegmann Associates Mechanical Contractors and Engineers in St. Charles.
“It was the most special morning getting to bring Paul’s Donuts and hot Starbucks coffee to say ‘thank you’ to these guys and tell them a little about my dad,” Angie said. “While none of them knew my dad, they were all so appreciative and kind to me.
“I think we all left feeling my dad’s presence and a bit more happy. I was proud to celebrate my dad in a way that I think made him smile up above.”
‘AN ABSOLUTE HONOR’
Local 36 member Jason Levall met Angie at the Harris House Inpatient Treatment Center jobsite that day. He later commented on the Local 36 Facebook page about the experience.
“It was my absolute honor to be part of this day with you,” Levall wrote to Angie. “Your father would be incredibly proud of you.”
Angie said her dad kept a positive attitude and chose happiness every day, even in the face of cancer. She said many of his co-workers became life-long friends and stood by him when he was diagnosed with the disease by visiting and bringing homemade food, playing music and just making him laugh.
“Labor union workers, sheet metal workers and Local 36 will always have a special place in my heart,” Angie said. “Thank you to all the men and women working these physically demanding, often dangerous jobs in the bitter cold and blazing heat of St. Louis. You have my utmost respect.”
JOINED LOCAL 36 IN 1979
Brother Sonnenschein joined Local 36 on Dec. 6, 1979. He retired from Industrial Sheet Metal, where he worked for 23 years, on April 1, 2011. He loved spending time with his grandchildren, playing with his dogs, riding his motorcycle, throwing backyard parties, grilling on his deck and helping family and friends with home improvement projects.
He is survived by his wife Carol Ann Sonnenschein; his children Laura Marie (Tim) Paul, Matthew Robert (Shannon) Sonnenschein, Angie (Brian Dunn) Sonnenschein, and stepdaughter Carol Corum; and grandchildren Brandon Paul, Jenna Paul, Brinleigh Rambaud, and Nicholas Corum.
He is also survived by his brothers and sisters Julie (Eamon) Concagh, Theresa Sonnenschein, Marie (Jim) Condis, Dorothy (Mort) Small, Henry (Kenny) Sonnenschein, Veronica (Tom) Yeager, Mariann Sonnenschein, John (Janis) Sonnenschein, and Joe Sonnenschein. He was preceded in death by his parents, the late Julian and Theresa Sonnenschein.