Members of United Steelworkers Local 6500– and working people in Sudbury — owe a debt of gratitude to a man whom many of them have never met.
Gilbert “Gib” Gilchrist, a former senior staff representative for USW Local 6500 and a former president of the Sudbury & District Labour Council, died Monday in Gore Bay at age 89. Longtime friend and fellow labour activist Homer Seguin, 77, was deeply saddened to learn Tuesday about his friend’s death.
Seguin, a former USW staff representative and Local 6500 president, said he first met Gilchrist in 1964 when Seguin was a trustee with the union and Gilchrist arrived in Sudbury from Elliot Lake. Gilchrist was born near Spr ing Bay on Manitoulin Island, the youngest of nine children, on a farm his family homesteaded in 1883.
He joined the army at age 20, later bought a farm across the road from his parents, and relocated to Elliot Lake with wife Donalda in 1957.
Seguin said Gilchrist became active in the union movement after first working in construction to build Milliken uranium mine.
Gilchrist moved to Sudbury in 1964 and Seguin said the two became friends “almost from the start.”
Unlike some union leaders who are hot-headed, Seguin said Gilchrist was easy-going. He was also honest and filled with integrity, said his friend.
USW Local 6500, then as now, had two factions — the “militants” and the “non-militants,” said Seguin. Gilchrist had an uncanny knack of knowing how to work with both sides to get the best result. He was also well-respected by Inco Ltd. officials.
When a young former USW Local 6500 president, David Patterson, became District 6 director, Gilchrist worked as his assistant from 1981-83.
He retired, but work as a labour studies coordinator at Cambrian College.
He also ser ved on the boards of the Sudbury United Way, Sudbur y-Manitoulin Legal Aid Committee and the Manitoulin Planning Board.
In 1989, Gilchrist and his wife returned to live on their farm in Spring Bay.
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