Union Remembers Late Retired Official Ripoll

 

September 2012

 

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Gruff and often intense, former SIU official George Ripoll served his union much like he served his country during the Korean War – with a deep sense of duty and pride. The former soldier, Seafarer and businessman spent 37 years with the SIU, leaving a lasting impression with nearly everyone he came in contact with.

 

Ripoll died July 31 in Palm Coast, Fla. He was 78.

 

Ripoll’s time with the SIU began in 1955. He had recently completed service as an Army Ranger during the Korean War – a post that earned him several Bronze and Silver Stars – and was looking for a post-war job. After joining the SIU, Ripoll sailed on ships operated by companies like Waterman, Delta Lines and Victory Carriers, mostly in the engine and deck departments. In 1961, he came ashore to work for the SIU at the Andrew Furuseth School in New York.

 

Ripoll taught boxing, karate and other courses at the school – utilizing the particular set of skills he developed during his military service. He held a sixth-degree black belt in karate, was the 1961 world jujitsu champion and earned a gold medal in a 1965 international competition against the Soviet Union.

 

“He was one of the soldiers stuck behind enemy lines in North Korea as the troops pulled back,” said retired port agent Edd Morris, who worked closely with Ripoll. “He could be quite an inspiration. He survived challenging circumstances and defied death many times … but, he survived to do many things for the SIU and the labor movement.”

 

That work grew in 1978, following Ripoll’s appointment as a headquarters representative in New York. It was in New York that current SIU Vice President Government Services Kermett Mangram first met Ripoll.

 

“He was responsible for my daily training. He took me to the waterfront and taught me how to be a rep and the things we were responsible for. He taught me how to protect the membership,” said Mangram, who arrived in New York in 1981. “He and his wife (Christine) opened up their home to me. He prided himself on protecting the membership. I owe that trait in myself to him.”

 

While in New York, Ripoll earned his GED, attended Staten Island State College and later received a bachelor’s degree from what is now known as St. John’s University.

 

In 1983, Ripoll moved to Jacksonville, Fla., eventually becoming an assistant vice president of the union’s government services division in 1988.

 

Florida was where current MTD Executive Secretary-Treasurer Daniel Duncan first met Ripoll. Duncan was beginning his SIU career as a field representative at the Jacksonville union hall and Ripoll was serving the SIU in various capacities.

 

“George was very strong and determined for me to learn what the Seafarers was all about,” Duncan said. “I will always appreciate him for that.”

 

Ripoll was well-known for his rough exterior. SIU colleagues who worked closely with him said that outer seriousness was fueled by an internal desire to better both himself and the union he so loyally served.

 

“He was always tough because he wanted you to learn and understand and do the best you could,” Duncan said.

 

While in Florida, Ripoll earned a master’s degree in accounting and served on many local civic and economic organizations. He retired from the SIU in 1991 after more than 37 years of service.

 

Duncan, Mangram and Morris all said they kept in touch with Ripoll throughout the years, adding they were impressed by his constant desire to better himself. He may have been an intense guy, they said, but that intensity was what made Ripoll so memorable and effective.

 

“There is so much to be said for and about him, it leaves me in awe,” Morris said. “I will be meditating on him for a while.”

 

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