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TRIBUTE TO MR. ROBERT (BOB) VON DRASEK

I rise to pay tribute to Mr. Robert (Bob) Vondrasek the most dedicated, committed and most loyal Saul-Alinsky-trained organizer that I have ever known.  Bob came to the South Austin Community during a time of great turbulence.  The community was in the throes of a great transition from being 80% white to becoming 80% Black within a ten-year period of time.  Block busting, panic peddling, redlining, disinvestment and all manner of malfeasance were taking place.  Police brutality and other forms of law enforcement misconduct were rampant. 

 

I met Bob Vondrasek during this period. It was also during this time that the organization for a Better Austin was organized, the South Austin Coalition Community Council (SACCC) was formed with Bob as lead organizer, and I decided to run for the City Council.  Over the years I have followed Bob's work with SACCC.  South Austin is practically an all Black community except for a few merchants who never left the area, a few white residents, school teachers and policemen, Bob is White or Caucasian and yet he won the hearts of the community and the trust of the people.  He has developed intimate relationships with many of the residents and to many he is like a member of their family. 

 

Through much of Bob's leadership, SACCC became known as the top grassroots community organization in the Chicago land area.  Bob was always a great strategist but the members like Mr. Ed Bailey, Mrs. Irene Norwood, Mrs. Lillian Drummond and Mr. George Lawson were the voices.  Many people don't know it, but it was SACCC who led community reinvestment. It was SACCC who organized senior citizens.  It was SACCC that led the fight for LIHEAP. It was SACCC that kept the Austin Bank on its toes (best behavior).  It was SACCC that united block clubs.  It was SACCC that got people to join local school councils, and it was SACCC that got churches to open their doors for community meetings. 

 

I have been in buildings with Bob where there was no heat.  I have been in homes where there was no food, and I have been on streets where there were no lights.  I have been in alleys where there was no hope.  I have been with Bob and families after their relatives had been shot.  Bob has worked to bring help to the helpless and hope to the hopeless. 

 

Bob Vondrasek, you are a good man and I thank you and your family, your wife and children for what you have meant to our community and to our world.  True soldiers are always reluctant to come off the battlefield, but there comes a time when we must put away our swords and shields to practice war no more. When that time comes, just know that you have made a difference.  When you came to South Austin, some newspapers, urban planners and prognosticators were predicting that Austin would be the next slum.  They did not know you, and they did not know the people of South Austin.  South Austin is not a slum.  It is a vibrant, forward-thinking and forward-moving community. Bob, you have done the Master's work.  You have fed the hungry, clothed the naked, brought hope to the hopeless, and helped the helpless.  You have lifted spirits and you have taught people how to love, how to live, and how to work together.  Bob,  I close with  words of my favorite song:

 

                If when you give the best of your service, Telling the world that the Savior is come; Be not dismayed when men don't believe you; He understands; and say, "Well done." 

                Oh, when I come to the end of my journey, Weary of life and the battle is won; carrying the staff and the cross of redemption, He(ll understand, and say "Well done." 

                If when this life of labor is ended, And the reward of the race you have run; Oh! the sweet rest prepared for faithful, Will be his blessed and final "Well done." 

                But if you try and fail in your trying, hands sore and scarred from the work you(ve begun; take up your cross, run quickly to meet Him; He'll understand, he'll say, "Well done!" 

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