Bob Astrowsky, one of the UFT’s most beloved leaders whose service to the union spanned more than 50 years, died on Sept. 3 after a long battle with several medical issues. He was 76.
“Bob had a unique ability — he was probably the best listener I met in my life,” said former UFT Secretary Emil Pietromonaco. “And after listening, he would do anything he could to help. He was a warehouse of information. A very special person.”
His wife, Yvette Geary, simply said, “Bob was UFT, through and through.”
Astrowsky began his career working with emotionally at-risk children in so-called “600 schools,” similar to what is known today as District 75. He worked as a guidance counselor and was the chapter leader of PS 148 in Manhattan. He later became the UFT’s District 3 representative, Brooklyn borough representative, Manhattan borough representative and an assistant to the UFT president. He was elected UFT assistant secretary in the spring of 2007 and held that position until July 2013.
Among the many awards and accolades he received was the Charles Cogen Award, the highest honor the union gives a member, on Teacher Union Day in 2009.
But titles and honors hardly tell the story of what Astrowsky has meant to the UFT and its members.
“This is a tough loss for us,” said UFT President Michael Mulgrew. “Bob was ever-present at the UFT, no matter what the issue. It truly won’t be the same here without him.”
Geary, a former UFT district representative, said her husband was “a very good person who never held a grudge. He was a loving, kind, supportive person. When there was a problem, he would address it, and the next day it would be as if it never happened.”
Astrowsky also was a longtime UFT Executive Board member. He was on the UFT negotiating committee, was a member of the New York State United Teachers Executive Committee and Board of Directors, and was a delegate to the American Federation of Teachers and NYSUT conventions. He was also a delegate to New York State AFL-CIO conventions.
Astrowsky, who would have turned 77 on Oct.1, was a longtime chair of the NYSUT Representative Assembly Convention Committee and was given a special honor at this year’s RA in April in Manhattan.
Besides Geary, Astrowsky is survived by his daughters, Sharon Astrowsky and Kim Greenstein, and his grandchildren, Hannah and Benny Greenstein. He was predeceased by his son, Jeffrey Astrowsky.
Astrowsky once called those associated with the union “the best people in the world.”
But Astrowsky, Mulgrew said, was “the best of the best.”