Kitchener, ON, October 2, 2013 – The local labour movement lost a great leader yesterday. Orville Thacker joined his first union in 1949 and was still an active leader of several labour and political organizations until yesterday, when he died at age 81.
The Waterloo Regional Labour Council will feel his loss deeply. Many tears were shed at last night’s meeting of the Labour Council’s Executive, where Thacker was an active member, representing the Waterloo Regional Council of Union Retirees.
“It’s hard to imagine Labour Council meetings without Orville’s presence,” Marc Xuereb, current Labour Council President, shared shortly after hearing the news at last night’s meeting. “He could always be counted on to stand and report on the latest political developments at meetings, and to recommend positions or actions that the Council should take.”
Thacker worked at BF Goodrich tire plant in Kitchener, and held every possible office on the Executive of Local 677 of the United Rubber Workers, which represented workers at the plant. He maintained an active membership in the union from 1949 until 1995, except for three years of military service from 1950-1953.
Thacker became President of the Kitchener-Waterloo and District Labour Council in 1970, and served as President for eight years, until 1977. He was President of the Waterloo Regional Council of Union Retirees for the past fifteen years, which made him an ex officio member of the Waterloo Regional Labour Council Executive for that entire period. He sat on the Executive of the Ontario Federation of Union Retirees for fifteen years, the past six as their President.
Thacker was also a strong activist with the New Democratic Party. He served on riding association Executives since the party was formed in the 1960s, and managed a number of campaigns for municipal, provincial, and federal NDP candidates.
Thacker had a passion for health issues. He served for nine years on the Board of the K-W Hospital Commission in the 1980s. He was a member of the Ontario Health Coalition, and current co-chair of the Waterloo Regional Health Coalition. He made frequent presentations to municipal Councils and lobbying visits to MPs and MPPs to discuss health care issues.
Labour Council Vice President Virginia Hansraj remembers Orville working in NDP campaign offices beside her mother when she was a young girl. Her family old family friends of the Thackers, and will miss his friendship as well as his activism. “Orville had a passion for politics, but also a warm heart. His smile could light up a room,” Hansraj said.
A memorial service is planned for this Saturday at the Henry Walser Funeral Home, 507 Frederick Street, Kitchener, from 1-4 p.m.