La­bor leader ‘lived and breathed’ union

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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 Wed­nes­day, his fam­ily said. He had also lived in West­ern Springs and was 94.

Mr. Gindorf 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 a 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 in­clude a son, Dr. Jef­frey Gindorf of Crys­tal Lake, and four grand­chil­dren. His wife of 68 years, Anne Gindorf, died last sum­mer.

Vis­i­ta­tion is from 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.

Lionel Gindorf

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