Gerald Robert "Jerry" Menapace, who rose from president of a local meat cutters union to the second-highest office of the United Food and Commercial Workers International, died of a heart attack Sunday at his Bel Air home. He was 73.
Mr. Menapace, also known as "Pal," was born in Atlas, Pa., and graduated from public schools there.
He spent four years in the Navy, serving in Africa during the Korean War as a radio operator. When he was discharged, he moved to Baltimore with his wife, the former Lena Griffith, who is deceased.
The couple had five children before the marriage ended in divorce.
In 1954, Mr. Menapace was working at the Goetz packing plant in Baltimore when he began his union career. "He had such a dynamic personality, people urged him to run against the president of the union," said his second wife, the former Jeanne Dawson.
At age 22, he became president of the local unit of the Amalgamated Meat Cutters and Butchers Workmen.
He was elected an international vice president of the United Food and Commercial Workers after it was formed in 1979 and was director of the retail division for seven years. He spent the next nine years as secretary-treasurer of the UFCW International, the second-highest office. He retired in 1995.
"He could lead people anywhere, he was such a dynamic speaker," said Mrs. Menapace. "Good or bad, he would tell them the truth."
He did not attend college, but Mr. Menapace completed a two-program in labor relations at Harvard University.
He became involved in the struggle for racial equality in Baltimore and supported other civil rights causes. He met his second wife when she and a group of other women were protesting the high price of meat at grocery stores. They were married in 1976.
The couple moved to Bel Air about 30 years ago. Mr. Menapace helped raise his wife's three sons from a previous marriage, all of whom took his last name.
Mr. Menapace also supported Democratic Party causes and raised money for Franklin Square Hospital Center. He was a member of St. Margaret Roman Catholic Church in Bel Air.
A funeral service will be held at 1 p.m. Friday at C.J. Lucas Funeral Home, North Vine Street, Mount Carmel, Pa.
In addition to his wife, Mr. Menapace is survived by six sons, David Menapace of Waynesboro, Pa., Danny Menapace of Cumberland, Martin Menapace of Hapeville, Ga., Douglas Menapace of Phoenix, Md., Jeffrey Menapace of Hawthorne, N.J., and Steven Menapace of Bel Air; two daughters, Kathleen Menapace of Baltimore and Elizabeth Stewart of Huntington, W.Va.; a brother, Robert Menapace of Northumberland, Pa.; a sister, Jacqueline Bolger of Roslyn, Pa.; 17 grandchildren; and two great-granddaughters.