by Victor D. Torres

As we enter the Fall season, unfortunately we have some unpleasant news to report.

We recently learned of the passing of one of our longest tenured Local 481 members Charles “Chuck” Henderson.

Brother Chuck Henderson began his Local 481 membership as an employee at the San Diego Zoo in the 1960’s. He served in several temporary positions for several years until sometime in the 1970’s when Chuck became a Keeper, Senior Keeper, Lead Keeper and Team Area Lead, eventually leaving the bargaining unit in the late 2000’s as an Animal Care Supervisor/Manager in the Reptile department. He also served various periods of time at the Wild Animal Park (now known as Safari Park) during the 1970’s and 1980’s as the Park was opening and beginning to find its way as well as the Zoo bouncing back and forth between the two campuses as needed.

While his accomplishments in just that regard are significant and noteworthy, it is his involvement and support of his Union which I want to recognize Brother Henderson for in this column.

Throughout the 1990’s into the 2000’s, Chuck participated as a Zoo negotiating committee member in multiple contract negotiations. His vast knowledge of the Union contract in combination with his knowledge of internal processes in the animal care industry, made him an invaluable member of our team. His unique work experience and background along with his working relationships with the entire spectrum of employees from entry level rank and file employees, all the way to executive level Directors and everything in between, served all parties well when we needed to tap into the history and evolution of whatever the issue at hand happened to be at that particular time.

Chuck was one of those rare people who had respect from all parties.
However, if you tried to point this out to Chuck, he would downplay his role and change the subject to acknowledge someone else. This is classic Chuck Henderson, that anything no matter what it was, was not about him, but rather it had to do with someone else.

In other words, despite earning the admiration of so many people, Chuck was one of the humblest people you could ever imagine.

Another noble quality that Chuck possessed was his absolute airtight reputation of never having a negative thing to say about anyone. How rare is that in today’s world where it is not only easy to take the low road to boost yourself or protect your turf, but taking the low road is encouraged (and many times rewarded) and tearing someone down at any opportunity that you possibly can is much too often the new norm?

Chuck always rejected rumor and innuendo. He never relied upon or perpetuated such activities. Instead in his own style and genuine manner, Chuck set the bar of conduct at the highest level relying on facts and planting the seeds of good will and integrity.

If I had to describe Chuck Henderson and what it was like to know him and to work with him, I would describe Chuck as a dignified person in all ways.
If you were seeking advice and guidance regarding something of a professional nature, you could count on Chuck. If the advice you were seeking was of a personal nature, you could count on Chuck for spot on advice and counsel and probably most importantly you could rely on the advice and counsel you received from Chuck to be handled with sensitivity and unwavering confidentiality.

It is these qualities that all of us in the Labor community strive for and devote ourselves to cultivate amongst our fellow Sisters and Brothers. By doing so, we empower ourselves to effectively counter powerful entities who may not see things the same way we do. We could all stand to reflect upon and learn something from Chuck.

On behalf of all of us who were fortunate enough to know him, we will miss our beloved Brother Chuck Henderson. However, we will never forget him nor forget the lasting impact he has had on us and our organization.
Our sincere condolences to the entire Henderson family and to our Brother Chuck Henderson, rest in peace.

As we go to press, we also offer our sincere condolences to the family, friends and coworkers of Rene “Ray” Cazares (Ace-Airport Transportation) who recently passed away. Rest in peace Brother Cazares.

In scholarship news, the recipients of the 2019 Local 481 Scholarship awards have been announced.

Congratulations to Maya Cordero (daughter of Daniel Cordero – Ace Parking), Brian Tang (son of Somboon Vilitchai – San Diego Zoo) and Zoo member William Malpica for being the 2019 recipients. With this announcement included, the total number of scholarship awards administered expands to 138 since the program began in 1996. Our thanks and acknowledgement to all the participants in this year’s program.