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Published: Friday, 12/13/2002

Railroad man lobbied for union in Columbus

GRAND RAPIDS, Ohio - Oras “Hud” Cress, a retired union officer and former lobbyist for the United Transportation Union in Columbus, died of a heart attack Wednesday in St. Luke's Hospital, Maumee. He was 85.

Mr. Cress, a Grand Rapids resident, was a conductor 40 years on freight and passenger trains with the former New York Central System and Amtrak, retiring in 1980.

Most of his train runs took him westward to Elkhart, Chicago, and other cities in Indiana and Illinois, Laurie Sell, his daughter, said.

She remembered as a girl her family seeing him off to work from the front porch of their home at Fearing Boulevard and Airline Drive.

He would lean off the back of the caboose as his train pulled away.

“When he would leave we would go out there and watch him wave a lantern to us,” Ms. Sell said. “That was a thrill. He'd wave the lantern and we waved back and blink our house lights on and off.”

A 1935 graduate of DeVilbiss High School, Mr. Cress played football and was a member of the track team that won a state championship.

He attended the University of Toledo for a year and worked as a carpenter with his father.

During the Depression, he was a laborer on a Works Progress Administration project to build what became Oak Openings Metropark, excavating a small lake and planting trees.

“They dug the lakes by hand,” Mr. Cress' daughter said. “He said there were about 500 men who did that and because there was no work they all worked there.”

He became a road brakeman with the former New York Central in 1941 and later was a conductor for its successor, Penn Central.

Mr. Cress held a number of offices in the local offices of the United Transportation Union, including chairman of the board of directors of the Greater Toledo Association of Railroad Trainmen Auxiliaries.

He was a lobbyist for the union in Columbus for about 15 years, retiring in 1980.

Mr. Cress built a cottage on Devils Lake, where he enjoyed fishing in his spare time.

He was a fourth-degree member of the Knights of Columbus and a member of St. Jude Council No. 3901. He was active in St. Patrick of Heatherdowns Church.

Surviving are his wife, Gertrude; daughters, Kathlyn Wodarski and Laurie Sell; son, Roy; 12 grandchildren, and 22 great-grandchildren.

Services will be at 10 a.m. Monday at St. Patrick of Heatherdowns Church. The body will be in the Coyle Funeral Home after 7 p.m. Saturday.

The family requests tributes to a charity of the donor's choice.



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