They may not have been Seafarers, but Jack Martorelli and Robert Chiesa were supportive of the SIU for decades, and undoubtedly were well-known to many union members.
The SIU was saddened to learn that both men recently passed away – Martorelli on Aug. 27, at age 78, after a battle with cancer; and Chiesa on June 6, at age 79.
Martorelli served as president of the Greater St. Louis Area and Vicinity Port Council, part of the AFL-CIO’s Maritime Trades Department (MTD). Although he only led the port council since 2014, he had been a mainstay of the organization for decades.
In recalling his longtime friend, MTD/SIU President Michael Sacco remembered Martorelli as one of the “amigos” who teamed with Sacco, Richard Mantia and Bobby Sansone to rebuild the council during the 1970s.
“Jack was the go-to guy in St. Louis,” Sacco said. “If you needed something done, you went to Jack. He will be sorely missed.”
Martorelli was a member of Operating Engineers Local 513, where he had served as president and business manager.
Chiesa spent almost three decades with SIU-contracted Waterman Steamship Corporation. For most of that time, he worked as manager of marine personnel, supervising crewing and payroll for 13 American-flag vessels.
He retired in 2006 but in 2013 returned to work for a while as the government crewing coordinator for the International Organization of Masters, Mates and Pilots.
“He was an all-around good guy and he really helped the SIU,” recalled former Seafarer Andrew Pierros, who alerted the LOG about Chiesa’s death. “It’s a shame he’s gone. He worked with the SIU for many years and I’m sure a lot of our guys would know him.”
Chiesa was born and raised in New York City on the Lower East Side, better known as Greenwich Village. He served in the U.S. Navy from 1958-63, then worked for railroads as a telegraph operator. Several years ago, Chiesa recalled his civilian maritime roots: “I started out in the maritime industry in New York with Clipper Marine, then with International Admiralty Marine and later with Avon Steamship,” he said. “I worked first as a teletype operator and a mail clerk. I climbed the ladder to become paymaster. In 1979, I finally came to rest on the doorstep of Waterman Steamship Corporation’s New York office.”