by Victor D. Torres

As we enter the Spring season, unfortunately we have been hit with rather unpleasant circumstances.

A person who represents the spirit that flows throughout our entire Local 481 organization was taken away from us. March 10, 2020, marks the day that we lost our dear Sister, Isabella “Bella” Virgilio.

Bella Virgilio began her Teamster membership with her employment as an Office Secretary/Titan Operator at Local 481 in 1987 through her retirement in 2007.

However, her involvement with the labor movement began prior to that when she worked at the Law Offices of Domnitz, Prochazka, Levine and Muller during the 1970’s. It is during her tenure at the law office that she connected with countless unions and union members while assisting them with the many legal matters that were being handled there over those years.

It was also during those years where Bella developed the roots of union leadership as one of her proudest achievements was becoming an Officer as Local 481’s Recording Secretary in the early 1990’s through her retirement. Sister Virgilio was equally proud of this achievement as she was one of the first female local union Officers to ever serve in our Joint Council. She was a pioneer who broke ground and set the path not only for Local 481, but our entire union’s transformation into an organization whose leadership is a true reflection of our membership and of our society.

Even though her professional accomplishments are many, it is Bella’s unofficial achievements which make her legacy unique in Local 481’s history.

Bella worked under multiple administrations during her 20+ year Teamster career. She was retained by each one because everyone knew that in addition to Bella’s competency as an administrative employee, there was no better ambassador for the local and for the labor movement than Bella. She knew that when a member called that most of the time they were calling because of something that was not going well for them and that they needed assistance of an urgent nature. For any of you who ever called our office between 1987-2007, you probably can vouch for the fact that Bella’s personality created a sense of calm that made you feel better about the situation and made you feel better about your union as well.

As someone who worked with Bella for the majority of her 20-year tenure, I can tell that Bella also spread that sense of calm to all of us who were fortunate enough to work with her. You could always count on Bella’s warm greeting and genuine concern for your well-being every single day.

That is not to say that Bella didn’t also have a great sense of humor. Take my word for it that she absolutely did. Even if you were on the receiving end of a joke or comment, it was never mean spirited, it was always delivered gently and with a witty flair.

It is with the heaviest of hearts that we send our sincere condolences to Bella’s Daughters Marianna and Christin, Granddaughters Ciara, Kayleigh and Saleah, Brothers Mike and Nino and countless extended family, in-laws, friends, neighbors and fellow St. Vincent parishioners and St Vincent/OLP classmates who have been close with Bella her entire life. Thank you for sharing your Mother, Nana and Sister and friend with us. Please know that she will forever be missed, but never forgotten.

On behalf of the Officers, Staff and membership of Teamsters Local 481, our sincere condolences to the entire Virgilio family, extended family and friends.

To our beloved Bella, rest in peace.

While details are sketchy as we go to press, we have also been made aware of the recent passing of one of our retirees Michael “Mike” Armstrong. Brother Armstrong was a Local 481 member through his 26+ year employment as a Mechanic at the San Diego Zoo. Mike also served as shop steward and Local 481 Trustee for several years.

On behalf of the Officers, Staff and membership of Teamsters Local 481, our sincere condolences to Michael Armstrong’s entire family.

Brother Armstrong, rest in peace.