During the past year, the public transit community said goodbye to industry leaders, pioneers of transportation technology, and two members of the APTA Hall of Fame.
Here is how they were remembered in the pages of Passenger Transport, in chronological order of their deaths.
New Jersey Assembly Minority Leader Alex DeCroce, 75, died Jan. 9 in the New Jersey Statehouse in Trenton following the final voting session of the 214th Legislature. New Jersey Transit Corporation (NJ Transit) Executive Director James Weinstein called DeCroce “a true public servant, a wonderful human being, and one of New Jersey’s foremost experts on public transportation.”
Jack W. Boorse, 78, principal professional associate for transport engineering in the Philadelphia office of Parsons Brinckerhoff (PB) since 1988, died May 9. Before joining PB, Boorse had served the Philadelphia Streets Department since 1957, spending the last five years of his tenure as chief traffic engineer.
Harold Williams, 90, of Woodland Park, MI, a founder of the Conference of Minority Transportation Officials in 1971, died May 11. Williams was a retired FTA associate administrator and longtime director of civil rights for its predecessor organization, the Urban Mass Transportation Administration. Following his retirement, he was a consultant to public transit agencies and DOT on issues of equal opportunity.
David Ruback, 56, president of Radio Engineering Industries Inc. in Omaha, NE, died of pancreatic cancer on May 22. Ruback joined the company in 1987 and became its president in 1998.
William D. Kennedy, 69, an internationally recognized expert on tunnel ventilation, died June 23. Kennedy worked with PB for 46 years; in the early 1970s, he was part of a joint venture team from PB, DeLeuw, Cather & Company, and Kaiser Engineers that developed the Subway Environmental Design Handbook under contract to DOT.
Walter J. Zable, 97, founder, chairman, president, and chief executive officer of Cubic Corporation, died June 25 in San Diego. Zable had guided Cubic since founding it in 1951.
Robert (Bob) K. Pfaff, 61, executive director of METRO Regional Transit Authority in Akron, OH, for the past 17 years, died July 2. Pfaff began his 38-year career at METRO as a bus operator in 1974, ultimately rising to the top position.
Leonard Ronis, 90, of Beachwood, OH, a 60-year public transportation professional, died July 4. Ronis joined the former Cleveland Transit System (CTS) in 1946, moving through the ranks to serve as the last CTS general manager on Nov. 1, 1974; he then became the first general manager of the Greater Cleveland Regional Transit Authority, serving until 1981. He subsequently spent 22 years as an associate consultant with PB. Ronis served as APTA president in 1980-82—at the time, APTA had both an elected president and an elected chair—and he was named to the APTA Hall of Fame in 1990.
Thomas J. (Tom) Woods, 55, chief of procurement for NJ Transit, died July 7. He joined the Procurement Department of NJ Transit in 1987 and held several senior management positions during his 25-year career with the agency.
Linda Somilleda, 52, director of operations and customer service for Foothill Transit, West Covina, CA, died July 24. Somilleda was a 16-year employee of the agency, joining the staff in 1996 and named to her most recent post earlier this year. She was a graduate of the Leadership APTA Class of 2005 and a member of the APTA Marketing and Communications Committee.
James A. Machesney, 83, of Naples, FL, a longtime public transportation professional, died July 31. Machesney had a 43-year career with Vapor Bus International-A Wabtec Company, ultimately serving as its senior vice president. He was inducted into the APTA Hall of Fame in 1999. Machesney chaired the Associate Member Board of Governors (now the Business Member Board of Governors) from 1986 to 1988 and was the first recipient of the APTA Associate Member Outstanding Contribution Award (now the Outstanding Business Member).
Langley C. Powell, 71, the first president and general manager of San Diego Trolley Inc., died Aug. 31 in McComb, MS. Powell was at the helm of San Diego Trolley during the successful startup of the 15-mile light rail system in 1981. He also oversaw seven subsequent expansions of the system east to Santee, north to Old Town, and through Mission Valley.
George Williams Barlow, 52, retired chief technology officer with the Santa Clara Valley Transportation Authority (VTA) in San Jose, CA, died Oct. 12. Barlow was a 12-year VTA employee who earlier worked 10 years for the Metropolitan Atlanta Rapid Transit Authority.
John P. LaForce, 79, an employee of Philadelphia’s Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority (SEPTA) for more than half a century, died Nov. 20. LaForce joined the former Philadelphia Transportation Company as a streetcar operator in 1954, ultimately rising to the position of deputy chief engineer, infrastructure. SEPTA presented him with a special citation in 2004 in recognition of his 50 years of service.