Rossi Vucinovich is saddened to announce the passing of one of the firm’s lead investigators, James (Jim) Wodke Jr. Jim embodied perhaps everything you could imagine in a person dedicated to the railway industry and the safety of railroad workers. He was a man of integrity, a fifth-generation railroader, and a man that was devotedly committed to union values.
Devotion to Railway Service
In the middle of his high school education in 1961, Jim began his railway career with the Rock Island Railroad in Herington, KS. He moved to Alliance, NE in 1979 and was hired on by Burlington Northern Railroad (BN) and promoted to conductor. While in Alliance, Jim was active in his local union as a Legislative Representative and Local Chairman.
Upon leaving the railway, Jim took on a new role and served in the legal field for nearly 30 years. He worked as a lead investigator with Rossi Vucinovich for 16 of those years. Jim will be missed dearly by his peers, colleagues, and every person he touched.
As with many families across the nation, railroading turned out to be an important part of the Wodke heritage. Jim was a fifth-generation railroader, starting with his great-great-grandfather after the Civil War. Here’s a quick look at the Wodke family’s impressive history:
- Frederick Wodke – After fighting in the Civil War, Frederick worked as a track section foreman for the Missouri-Kansas-Texas Railroad, commonly referred to as the Katy. He helped build rail lines between Parsons and Junction City, KS.
- Charles Wodke – Charles was Frederick’s first-born son. He was an engineer for the Missouri Pacific Railroad in Council Grove, KS.
- William Wodke – William was the third generation of Wodkes to work for a railroad. He also worked for the Missouri Pacific Railroad in Council Grove starting as a fireman.
- James Wodke Sr. – “Jake” began his railroad career with the Missouri Pacific Railroad as a brakeman and conductor. He was eventually furloughed, and James moved back to Herington, KS. He was then hired onto the Rock Island Railroad as a passenger and freight brakeman and conductor.
Jim Wodke Jr was the son of James Wodke Sr., and he served as the Wodke family’s fifth-generation railroader.
Commitment to Union Values
As noted above, Jim was active in his Local 202 as a Legislative Representative and Local Chairman. He provided countless hours of advice to local leadership, members, and injured brothers and sisters. The Treasurer of the Local 202 remembers Jim as:
“Caring and respectful, decent, honest, loyal, and always willing to share his great fund of knowledge about the union and the Federal Employers’ Liability Act…He always made time and tried to help everyone in the brotherhood.”
Local 202 plans to honor a member of its union with the Jim Wodke Memorial Service Award every year. The award will go to a union member who embodies the same commitment to union values that Jim always displayed.