It is with great sadness that I write this column. Of the six workers who died as a result of the explosion at the Middletown, Connecticut Power Plant, four were members of United Association. Three of our brothers worked out of Connecticut Local Union 777. The fourth worked out of Boston Local Union 537. In their memory, I ask that you read some of what has been written about these four men. They were all more than just workers.
Kenneth Haskell, age 37, a resident of New Durham, New Hampshire and a member of UA LU 537 was a superintendent at the jobsite. It has been reported that he was attempting to monitor the accumulated gas levels with the safety manager Chris Walters when the blast occurred. Walters died at the site. Bro. Haskell was airlifted to the Hartford Hospital, where he spent days on life support in the intensive care unit before he died. It was reported in one newspaper account that, Ken Haskell was involved with community service in his hometown. He was "very kind and caring," said Dawn Lamontagne, a neighbor. He loved snowmobiling and riding motorcycles with his wife, Lisa.”
Peter "Pete" C. Chepulis, age 48, was the husband of Dyann "De" (Beveridge) Chepulis. He was born May 3, 1961, in Waterbury, son of Mildred (Skerstonas) Chepulis of Thomaston and the late George B. Chepulis. Raised in the Brooklyn section of Waterbury, he was a graduate of St. Joseph's Grammar School and Kaynor Technical High School. He was a member of UA Local 777, the Thomaston Fish and Game Club and the NRA. His passions were bird hunting with his Springer Spaniels, riding his Harleys, competing in wood chopping competitions at the local fairs, good food, cooking and traveling.
In addition to his wife, and his mother, he is survived by his stepdaughter, Alicia G. Beveridge of Southington; a brother, James T. Chepulis and his wife, Pam, of Thomaston; a nephew, Stephen J. Chepulis; and a great-nephew, Jason S. Chepulis. Memorial contributions may be made in Pete's name to the Animal Rescue Foundation, P.O. Box 538, Thomaston 06787.
Raymond E. Dobratz Jr., age 58, was the husband of Paula (Vance) Dobratz. Ray was born in Meriden on Aug 9, 1951 to Maureen M. Dobratz of Meriden, and the late Raymond E. Dobratz, Sr. Ray was a member of UA Local 777 for the past 40 years. He served in the Army National Guard. He was on the Old Saybrook Police Commission for 13 years; and also on the Old Saybrook Park & Rec. Commission for 13 years. Ray was on the Board of Trustees for the Westbrook Elks, and a former member of the Democratic town committee. Ray also coached youth sports. He was one of the co-founders of the Old Saybrook Youth Football Athletic League (OSYFAL) in the 1980s. Ray was an avid fisherman and loved the water. He was a well known figure in Old Saybrook; a devoted husband, father, grandfather, and will be sadly missed.
Besides his wife of 38 years, he is survived by 3 sons: Erik R. Dobratz and his wife Denise of Hamden, David J. Dobratz of Old Saybrook, and Matthew P. Dobratz and his wife Sarah of Old Lyme; a sister Marie Heck of Meriden; 5 grandchildren: Lily, Cole, Lauren, Kendall, and Keegan; many nieces and nephews. Ray is predeceased by a son Peter V. Dobratz and his black lab Jetty. In lieu of flowers donations may be made to the Raymond Dobratz Scholarship Fund, c/o Liberty Bank, 90 Main St., Old Saybrook, CT, 06475, or spend time with someone you love and take them fishing.
Ronald Jeffrey Crabb, age 42, was the beloved husband of Jodi Thomas. Born August 16, 1967 in Spring Valley, IL, he was a son of Marilyn T. Crabb of Chicago, IL and the late Carle (Bart) Crabb, III. He was married to Jodi M. Thomas on July 2, 1994 in Fairfield, CT. The couple later moved to Colchester where they made their home.
Most importantly, Ron will be remembered by his family for his devotion and hard work. In addition to his loving wife of 15 years and his mother, survivors include two sons, Dylan Thomas-Crabb of Colchester and Tyler Barboza of Spring Valley, IL; a brother, Carle Ray Crabb, IV of Spring Valley, IL; step father, Jerome Sisul of Chicago, IL; step siblings, Tawny Sisul, Francie Sisul, David Sisul and Jerome Sisul; mother in law, Susan Thomas of Milford; a special aunt, Sandra Thomas of Stratford and numerous extended family members and friends.
Ron proudly worked as a Steamfitter for UA Local 777 for 18 years. As an apprentice, Ron received the Department of Labor, Fitzgerald Award for outstanding apprenticeship.
Throughout his career, Ron was a champion of workers rights and job safety. Holding a strong belief in Unionism, Ron was immediate past president of the Local. Prior to that, he served the Local as Recording Secretary and as an Executive Board member. Receiving appointment by the Governor, Ron also served for six years on the State Licensing Board for Heating, Piping, Cooling and Sheet Metal Workers. He worked to maintain the integrity of the profession and protect work jurisdiction and consumers from fraudulent contractors.
An active member of his home town, Ron served on the Colchester Democratic Town Committee and he just completed a six year term on the Board of Finance. Ron was awarded the Secretary of the State's Public Service Award for his long standing dedication. He touched countless people's lives in an everlasting way. Ron held an avid love of the great outdoors. Donations in his memory may be made to benefit his children's education: Ronald Crabb Children's Education Fund, c/o Liberty Bank, 219 South Main St., Colchester, CT 06415.
May they all rest in peace and be fondly remembered for generations.
Donations for the families of Brother Chepulis, Brother Crabb and Brother Dobratz can also be made to the Local 777 Victim's Benevolent Fund C/O Local 777, 1250 East Main Street, Meriden CT. 06450