In memory of “Hobie” Rhinehart

Forgive me for not noting this earlier. Longtime activist Hobart Rhinehart passed away Thursday after a long illness. His funeral was yesterday in Cattaraugus. “Hobie” was a longtime leader in his region, in NYSUT and his central labor council and countless other organizations.
Here’s what Tom Campbell, of WNYLaborToday had to say:

It was sad to learn of the passing of former Cattaraugus-Allegany AFL-CIO Central Labor Council President Hobart “Hobie” McKay Rhinehart, who captained the Southern Tier Labor Council for 15 years. Rhinehart passed away peacefully in his sleep on Thursday, December 8th at Olean General Hospital after a long struggle with illness.  Rhinehart may have not been big in stature, but his heart certainly was – and so was the fact that he was one of the biggest supporters of Organized Labor that anyone’s ever run across here in Western New York.  Even though his health declined in recent years, Hobie always showed up at a Labor meeting or gathering not only down in the Olean area, but also up here in Buffalo.  New York State United Teachers (NYSUT) Office Staff Member Kendra Waddington in Jamestown passed this remembrance along to WNYLaborToday.com: “I’ve been lucky enough to know Hobie and his wife, Audrey, since I’ve been a Union Member.  As well as being a warm, intelligent, kind person, he was a true example of what a Union Member ‘should’ be.  I remember one time when he was the only person I saw walking an informational picket line protesting the use of non-Union Labor to construct a building in Jamestown!  It was a nasty day outside too!  He will be sorely missed by those he helped and those that love him.”

Buffalo AFL-CIO Central Labor Council President Mike Hoffert remarked to WNYLaborToday.com about Hobie over the weekend: “He was truly a great Labor Leader, even at the age of eighty-three.  He was always a fighter for the little guy and I can’t say enough good things about him.  He had so many great contributions to Labor and he was so politically active.  I was honored to serve alongside him as a Central Labor Council President.”

Dave Eggert direct’s NYSUT’s Jamestown office. He made it a point to stop in to see Hobie at Olean General Hospital last week as he was heading back to the Jamestown area from a meeting in Albany.  “I saw him on Wednesday (of last week).  I stopped in and talked with him hours before he died.  He was still very interested in what was going on with Organized Labor, which was in his heart.  (Labor) was ‘who’ he was,” Eggert said.

Indeed, Rhinehart was Labor down in the Southern Tier as not only a constant for more than 15 years, but a dedicated individual who did what was needed to be done for Working People – even if meant participating in a one-person picket line.

Other comments collected by WNYLabor Today include:

  • Richard Lipsitz, the interim president of the Western New York AFL-CIO Area Labor Federation (WNYALF) – the umbrella Labor Organization that counts the Buffalo, Niagara-Orleans, Dunkirk, Jamestown and Cattaraugus-Allegany Councils as its members – said Rhinehart “was a wonderful gentlemen in every sense of the word.  He was a tremendous advocate for ordinary Working People.  He will be greatly missed by all of us.”
  • “I’ve known Hobie since the 1970s,” Dunkirk AFL-CIO Central Labor Council President Doug Stock said.  “He was a great guy and a great Labor Leader, and one of the most tenacious Labor Leaders I’ve ever known.  Labor ‘was’ his life.  He will be sorely missed.”
  • Niagara-Orleans AFL-CIO Central Labor Council Jim Briggs said: “I am sad to learn of his passing.  Hobie Rhinehart had a lot of passion for the Labor Movement right up until the day he left.  He worked in solidarity with other Labor Leaders across Western New York and many lives have been made better because of it.  We all thank him for his service.”

That we do. Of the many memories I have, the most vivid is from the May 9 2000 rally for lawmakers to pass a permanent Cost Of Living Adjustment. There were nearly 100 buses and I was stationed to interview the first who arrived. Of course, the first face I saw was Hobie. He and others from the Jamestown area were on the bus for hours, and happy to get off and walk around.

That only lasted minutes though. It was hot for May 9, and humid. The rally was long with a lot of speeches. Eric Van Dyke had gone up into one of the tall buildings overlooking the rally to get a photo that showed how many people were there. Unfortunately, because of the heat, the plaza looked empty because everyone was sitting in the shade, under the maple trees.

Eric came all the way down and asked me to help him get people out of the shade and into the plaza.

I remember not having much luck at budging people. It was SO HOT out under the sun. It was easily 20 degrees cooler in the shade of those maples nearby. Once Hobie got up and walked out to the plaza, then there was no problem coaxing anyone else. Eric got the shot. Once I find it, I’ll post it if it’s in an electronic form.

Rest in peace, Hobie.

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3 Comments

  1. David Eggert December 13, 2011 at 2:28 pm #

    Hobie was one of those leaders who built our union and who never wavered in his support of teachers, unions, public schools, and working people everywhere. He did everything he could for as long as he could, and we will sure miss him.

  2. Amy Rhinehart December 13, 2011 at 11:14 pm #

    Hobie was my father in-law and the grandpa to my 3 sons. My husband, John and I would just like to thank all of you for your love and support. We all knew Hobie was a great husband, dad and grandpa. And we all knew he had a great big heart that was filled compassion, not just for family but for all. He will be greatly missed but it is wonderful to know that you all also saw Hobie for the loving, caring soul he was. God Bless you all!

  3. David Black December 14, 2011 at 11:05 am #

    Hobie was the father of one of my best friends growing up. I couldn’t count the times stayed over there or ate dinner with them. He was always kind and compassionate, as well as Audrey his wife. I will always have fond memories of them both. God’s peace to Audrey, and the kids/grandkids.

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