Workers’ Memorial Wall

Politicians and economists are running cost-benefit analyses, weighing the value of lives vs. the value of stock portfolios.
We are mourning. These are stories of some of the lives we have already lost.

Progressive Workers' Union (PWU)

Jean Modestile

Position

Light Maintainer

Jean Levelt Modestile, a Heating and Air Conditioning maintainer at the 148th St. HVAC shop died of the Coronavirus at 2:00pm on April 23, 2020. He was only 50 years old. Brother Modestile was originally from Haiti. He had six years on the job, and previously worked for Air Pro HVAC Corp. in Hicksville. On the notice for his funeral at the Bensing-Thomas Funeral Home in East Stroudsberg, PA, his family posted the following passage from the Bible, Book of Revelations: “He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.” Brother Modestile is survived by his wife, Rocheline, three children and a brother, Richard.

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Progressive Workers' Union (PWU)

Thomas Chai

Position

Light Maintainer

Light Maintainer Thomas Teck Kuwe Chai, on nights since joining New York City Transit in 2015, passed away of the Coronavirus on April 12, 2020. Brother Chai was originally from Ipoh, the capital city of the State of Perak in Malaysia. He attended SMK Malim Nawar high school there and emigrated to the U.S. in 1977. He was 60 years old. His son Philip said that his father passed away at the hospital after being on a ventilator. “I have always looked up to him as my role model in life,” said Philip. “He was a very hard working person who always worked extra hours at his job. He would always cook for me before he went to his nightshift job. I will always remember him and all the good things he has done for his communities.”

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Progressive Workers' Union (PWU)

Philip Davis

Position

Motorman

Motorman Phillip Davis, 55, of Bronxville, New York, passed away from the coronavirus after over 31 years of dedicated service on April 23, 2020. Phil loved operating the trains. In addition to his stellar career with New York City Transit, he was a wonderful husband and loving father, and a man of many talents and passions. His wife, conductor Stacey Davis, recalled his delicious meals, his sense of humor, his sharp dressing and his love of sports. Phil’s favorite teams were the Jets, the Knicks and the Yankees. He was a DJ back in the day, and continued to enjoy music and dancing. Phillip touched the lives of his many friends and co-workers who miss him dearly.

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Progressive Workers' Union (PWU)

Benny Diaz

Position

Structure Division

Structure Division is mourning the passing of another Brother to the Coronavirus. Venancio “Benny” Diaz, a veteran SMB with 21 years on the job, passed away on April 30, 2020 at Staten Island University Hospital. He was just shy of his 59th birthday. He is the third Local 100 member from Structure Division to die of the virus. Brother Diaz was born on May 18, 1961 in a small town called San Juan Nepopualco in the state of Tlaxcala, Mexico. He emigrated to New York in the mid 1980’s. He worked multiple jobs including cook, painter, and construction worker. He finally found his permanent career when he joined the MTA in 1999. According to his daughter, Teresa, he enjoyed listening to the Beatles, the Rolling Stones, BeeGees, the Doors, and Vicente Fernandez in his spare time. He also enjoyed creating wooden crafts for his grandchildren and never hesitated in helping out anyone in need. He is survived by his parents, Roberto Diaz Rocha and Teresa Herrera Barba, his wife of 38 years, Marina Diaz, along with their three daughters and one son, Heidi Sanchez, Nancy Rivera, Teresa Palafox and Angel Diaz; a daughter from an earlier union, Karla Jimenez, and 11 grandchildren.

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Progressive Workers' Union (PWU)

Harvey Knight

Position

Elevator and Escalator Maintainer

Harvey K. Knight, Jr., a veteran Elevator and Escalator Maintainer for nearly 20 years with NYCT, died on the Coronavirus on April 23, 2020. He is described by those who knew him on the job as a dedicated father, husband, friend and co-worker. “He was a hard-working, dedicated employee, who had great enthusiasm for his job and his union,” said a friend in an email to the union. A funeral took place on May 15, 2020 at Unity Funeral Chapels, 2352 Frederick Douglas Blvd. in Manhattan. The family said it will be holding a memorial at a later date for those unable to attend the funeral during this time of Coronavirus restrictions on gatherings. He is survived by his wife, Lorena, and three children, Jovanna, Jayvon and Justina.

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Progressive Workers' Union (PWU)

Rodney Sparrow

Position

Power Maintainer

Power Division is mourning the loss of another Brother to the Coronavirus. Rodney Sparrow, a veteran of the job for nearly 23 years, died of the virus in April. He was 50 years old. A computer expert, he worked on the Track Geometry Train responsible for identifying and inputting track defects into the data base for quick repair. He worked nights for many years, but had been working days at the time of his passing. He was a graduate of the John Jay School of Criminal Justice, Class of 1993. He was a lifelong resident of Brooklyn.

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Progressive Workers' Union (PWU)

George Manifold

Position

Call Center Operator

George Manifold, whose job it was to bring transportation services to the sick and disabled, died on April 23rd from the coronavirus. He worked at his operators’ desk at Global Contact Services until April 19th, when he became too ill to work. Brother Manifold had three and half years with the company, a long tenure in a job environment where most operators last less than a year. GCS workers are not MTA employees, but they dispatch Access-A-Ride vans which are coordinated through the MTA. Local 100 organized the shop four years ago and won important job protections including the right to challenge disciplinary actions. “He was a great worker,” said his union rep, Division Chair Sandra Lennon. “He never had any problems or write-ups until he got an infection in his leg and was hospitalized. Due to being hospitalized, he couldn’t report to work. He was terminated.” Appealing the termination on December 18th of 2018, Sister Lennon fought the charges and the hearing officer ruled in the union’s favor. Brother Manifold returned to work in January of 2019. Brother Manifold leaves five children, five grandchildren, and a wife to mourn.

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Progressive Workers' Union (PWU)

Ricardo Hill

Position

Signal Maintainer

Line Equipment/Signals Division is mourning the loss to the Coronavirus of Signal Maintainer Ricardo Hill. He had 20 years on the job and passed away on May 14, 2020 at the hospital. He worked out of Liberty Junction on the A line. Division Chair Duvet Williams, who worked with Brother Hill in the past, said that “Ricardo was a tremendous professional. He was an expert on electronics. If you needed to know anything about electronics, he would teach you.” Brother Hill was an avid amateur photographer. “He put a lot of effort into photography. He had very expensive equipment, and was really good at it,” said Williams. “This is really sad,” said Williams. “Ricardo was in great shape from exercising and lifting weights. He was a really good person, and a very positive influence on his co-workers. We are all going to miss this great union brother.”

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Progressive Workers' Union (PWU)

Elecier Williams

Position

Conductor

Local 100 is mourning the loss of Conductor Elecier Williams, who had two years on the job and passed from the virus at the young age of 41. Sister Williams worked the extra list on the midnight tour and lived in the Bronx. She leaves a loving family which includes the Consul General of Jamaica in New York, Mrs. Alsion Roach Wilson, who called her “my favorite niece.” In an on-line posting, the Consul-General added, “We shared a very close relationship, so much so that I regarded her as more of a daughter than a niece. Whenever I wanted the best stewed peas and escovitch fish, I knew that I could always rely on Norsha and she never disappointed as she was the Queen in preparing these meals….It is a bitter pill to swallow, knowing that she died alone without anyone to assist her. This does not seem real to me so I was waiting all morning for someone to call me to say that it is a horrible joke. With such a friendly personality and a smile that brightened a dull day, an angel has truly left this world.” Sister Williams’ cousin, Wayne Collins, said that after working her last shift on a Sunday or Monday in mid-April, she felt ill. “She came into the house noticeably sick,” he said, “and two or three days after she became ill everyone in the house had COVID-19.” Mr. Williams said an ambulance transported Sister Williams to Montefiore hospital where the family was not allowed to see her. She was placed in a medically-induced coma and on a ventilator and died after three weeks in the hospital on May 3rd. Mr. Williams said his cousin had a Masters and a BA in Accounting, but decided to pursue a career with NYC Transit after being “a stay-at-home Mom.” He said she was encouraged to join transit by family members who are also on the job, Conductor Paulette Roberts and Train Operator I’Tanisha Stennett. Elecier Williams leaves three children, Nathaniel, 20, who is the godson of the Consul-General, Jayden, 15, and Haley, 8.

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Progressive Workers' Union (PWU)

Walter Watson

Position

Bus Operator

Kingsbridge Depot is mourning the passing of another Brother member to the Coronavirus, Bus Operator Walter ‘Wats’ Watson. He was 55 and died on May 4, 2020. He had 20 years on the job at Jackie Gleason Depot and in recent years, Kingsbridge near his home. Brother Watson graduated John F. Kennedy High School in the Bronx, and shortly thereafter joined the U.S. Navy, where he excelled in electronics and became a certified naval electrician. He served on the nuclear submarine, USS Shark out of Groton, CT. After being discharged, he was offered a civilian military position in Iraq, but decided to stay close to home and went to work for United Parcel Service. During those years, he helped start the Marble Hill 3 on 3 Basketball Tournament for the neighborhood youth. He also worked for Baldor’s, the specialty food service company, before joining NYCT in 2000. Kingsbridge Vice Chair Felix Olivo said that Brother Watson was “very well liked at the depot, a fun loving guy. He was a hard worker and spoke his mind. He loved his Steelers and was always wearing the Black and Yellow proudly. He’s going to be dearly missed.” Brother Watson is survived by his wife, Tiffany, a 2-year old son, Walter Watson V, two daughters, Enaj and Sydney, four sisters and three brothers.

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