TACOMA, Washington – Roger Rader’s family and friends gathered in the front yard of the family house here July 18 to remember his irascible personality but also his unwavering, lifelong fight for trade union rights, civil rights and socialism.

Rader, who had been a member of United Boilermakers Local 502, died here May 7 at age 80. He had been forced to retire in 1981 after a serious job injury that would have incapacitated a less-determined person. Together with 97-year old Jim Cassidy, Roger distributed the PWW at the unemployment office in Tacoma for many years. He was a co-founder of the Boilermakers Old Timers Club, helped set up an unemployed workers’ center in Tacoma, worked for civil rights and world peace and was active until the end of his life in Jobs with Justice (JwJ).

The Pierce County JwJ released an obituary that said, in part, “Roger O’Rader – as he oft said his name – was a character in a Local 502 baseball cap that never let a meeting go by without saying, ‘If you don’t hang together, you’ll hang separately,’ accompanied by banging on the table with his fist.”

This ritual became such a celebrated occurrence, the obit continued, “that JwJ members would all bang our fists in unity, from Labor Council president to student activists, after Roger O’Rader’s once-a-meeting statement made at unpredictable times.”

He was an “irascible fellow” who knew “what each struggle was about without much explanation,” the JwJ obit added. “Despite health obstacles, he chipped in at protests and phonebanks when he could.”

At the memorial, his youngest brother, Duwayne, told the crowd Roger “was goodhearted to a fault. There were plenty of times I wish he had been a little goodhearted to himself.” Duwayne told of Roger’s birth in Tacoma Feb. 27, 1929, a few months before the stock market crash and the family’s move to Montana where they “nearly starved” before returning to Tacoma in 1940 where Guy Rader found work in the shipyards.

Roger’s younger brother, Keith, called him a “romantic” always “chasing the golden rainbow” including improbable inventions like an “automatic raspberry picker.”

Max Rader said he accompanied his elder brother into the mountains where Roger had staked gold claims that did not pan out. He was drafted into the U.S. Army but broke his ankle and thus avoided deployment overseas. The military gave him a psychological test and found he had an IQ of 166, Max said. “They said he ought to be in the officer corps. No way! He got out and went to welding school and retired from the shipyard as a welder.”

Singer June Kilgore, a family friend, said she met Rader in the early 1950s. “He had such a kind heart and generous spirit,” she said. “All of his ideas were aimed at saving the planet and making things better for people.” In his honor she sang, “Simple Gifts,” the Shaker hymn.

His nephew, Kevin, said, “He always helped out everyone. That was Roger.”

Pushkara Sally Ashford said she met Rader in her early teens when they both sang with a group called “The Wayfarers” adding, “He was like the sun coming in the door. There was something very warm and bright about Roger.” People describe him as a “boy who never grew up,” she said. “But he always had a consciousness of the group. He was an original thinker but also a collective thinker.”

Ashford’s mother, Irene Hull, 96, was trying to recall, out loud, the names of the organizations Rader was active in. A chorus called out, “Jobs with Justice” “Fellowship of Reconciliation” “Washington Network” and “The Communist Party.”

Hull nodded, “That’s it…Til his dying day he was active in those organizations.”

PWW writer, Tim Wheeler, said his mother once told him the Rader family, Guy and Bernice, and their seven children, were “Salt of the Earth,” solidly working class, always in struggle for union rights, civil rights and socialism. Roger and his family, he said, worked to elect Barack Obama and now were fighting for universal health care reform.

Roger Rader was predeceased by his former wife, Marge, his former wife Betty and his sisters Norma and Wanda. He is survived by his daughter Laurie, grandchildren Kendra and Quinn, and brothers Keith, Neil, Max and Duwayne and numerous nieces and nephews.

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