Local labor leader ‘lived and breathed’ union

When someone sought a favor from Lionel Gindorf — too many times to count during his nearly five decades of union life — he typically asked only this in return: “Don’t embarrass me.”

Mr. Gindorf’s generous spirit was perhaps born of hardship growing up during the Great Depression or from seeing so many of his neighborhood friends perish during World War II.

Either way, the 6-foot-3 Gindorf, nicknamed “Tiny,” was remembered this week for his “heart-felt humanitarianism.”

“He was an amazing human being,” said his daughter, Merry Nicholson, of Western Springs.

Mr. Gindorf, the former president and business manager of Local 399, the International Union of Operating Engineers, died Dec. 5, his family said. He had also lived in Western Springs and was 94.

Mr. Gindorf was born in 1924 and grew up on the Near West Side and near Midway Airport. During World War II, he serviced B-16 bombers on the island of Guam in the Pacific.

When he returned to Chicago after the war, he began his career as a building engineer downtown. He quickly rose through the ranks at Local 399, earning a reputation as a skilled negotiator — and someone to go to for advice you could count on or if you wanted to get your foot in the door, his family said.

“My dad didn’t have a list of people who owed him favors,” his daughter said. “He considered it his job to take care of people.”

For 48 years, he “lived and breathed” the union, according to speech given when he retired in 1994. He’d spent the last 14 years of his working life as the union’s business manager.

In addition to his daughter, survivors included a son, Dr. Jeffrey Gindorf of Crystal Lake, and four grandchildren. His wife of 68 years, Anne Gindorf, died last summer.

Visitation is planned for 2 to 9 p.m. Sunday and from 9 to 10 a.m. Monday at Hallowell & James Funeral Home, 1025 W. 55th St., Countryside. A funeral is set for 10 a.m. Monday at the funeral home.

 

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