PEORIA - Mark H. Ayers of Alexandria, Va., formerly of Peoria, and the innovative and forward-looking president of the Building and Construction Trades Department, AFLCIO (BCTD), and whose vision had helped to reposition the union construction industry to confront and capitalize on the challenges and opportunities of today, died on Sunday, April 8, 2012.
Upon becoming president of the BCTD in 2007, Ayers said, "I will do all that I can to enhance our stature as the world's No. 1 choice for quality, skilled labor in the construction industry." Indeed, through Ayers' hard work and innovative stewardship, America's Building Trades Unions are on the road to reasserting themselves and re-capturing market share through a firm commitment to delivering "Value on Display...Every Day."
A man of vision, innovation and out of the box thinking, Ayers was a strong believer in the power of relationships, and in proving oneself through actions and deeds, not empty rhetoric. And it was that thinking that forged the creation of pioneering, and cooperative, labor-management models with the nuclear, oil and natural gas, pharmaceutical, electrical and petro-chemical industries, among others. In his tenure at the helm of the BCTD, Ayers had set a profound and distinct course for America's Building Trades Unions, as well as the entire union construction industry. And it was a course grounded upon pride, performance and professionalism - the exact values that guided his own life.
Ayers was appointed by President Barack Obama to serve on the Blue Ribbon Commission on America's Nuclear Future. He also served as chairman of the National Coordinating Committee for Multi Employer Plans; the Board of Directors of the Diabetes Research Institute; Secretary-Treasurer of the Union Labor Life Insurance Company; Chairman of the Center for Construction Education and Research CPWR; on the Board of Trustees for the AFL-CIO Housing Investment Trust; Labor Co-Chair for the Helmets to Hardhats Program; the Board of Directors of the Nuclear Energy Institute; Board of Trustees of the National Labor College; and the Board of Directors of the Elderly Housing Development and Operations Corporation (EHDOC).
An impeccable man of integrity, grace, charm, good manners and strong character, Mark Ayers was a purist who still believed that the words "please," "thank you" and "I promise," were the foundation of one's ability to engender trust from others. These were the values he was taught during his formative years in Peoria, Ill.
Prior to becoming president of the BCTD, Ayers served for nine years as the director of the Construction and Maintenance Department at the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW). He served as president of the National Maintenance Agreement Policy Committee Inc. and was Labor Co-Chairman of that labor-management committee. He was also a member of IBEW Local 34 in Peoria, Ill., since 1973, which he headed as business manager for nine years after working his way up through the ranks, first as an inside wireman, then treasurer, business representative and assistant business manager.
He was co-founder and chairman of the Central Illinois Chapter of the National Electrical Contractors Association-IBEW Local 34 Quality Connection. He was appointed to the National Joint Apprenticeship Training Committee, served as a trustee and chairman of the NECA-IBEW Welfare and Pension Trust Funds and was a member of the board and on the executive committee of the Peoria Area Labor Management Council and the Labor Management Cooperative Health Program. During his years with Local 34 and the West-Central Illinois Building and Construction Trades Council, Mark also served on the Board of Directors of the Peoria Chapter of the American Red Cross, and was appointed by the Mayor of the City of Peoria to serve on the Peoria Civic Center Authority. Mark worked with the Junior League of Peoria to build the Tri-Centennial Playground in Glen Oak Park commemorating the 300th birthday of the founding of Peoria. That relationship with the Junior League led Mark to bringing the West-Central Illinois Building Trades Council into the League's "Christmas in April" program in 1994, which renovates homes for the elderly, disabled and low income families. The local Building Trades participation in this annual effort continues today 18 years later.
Mark was also instrumental in organizing two major Labor Management committees in the Peoria area, including the Peoria Area Labor Management (PALM) group which brought all area unions and companies together including Caterpillar and the UAW. The other committee is the Tri-County Construction labor management committee, which brings all the building trades unions and their respective contractors and associations together in a positive Labor-Management setting.
Ayers attended the George Meany Institute for Labor Studies, the University of Wisconsin and the University of Illinois Institute of Labor and Industrial Relations.
He also served in the U.S. Navy as an aviator during the Vietnam war era, and his commitment and devotion to our nation's military veterans was amplified through his direct involvement with the "Helmets to Hardhats" program, serving as president of the AFL-CIO Union Veterans Council and through his support of the Education Center of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Fund.
Mark was born Jan. 22, 1949, in Canton, Ill., to Edward Charles and Daunie (Hawks) Ayers. He married Deborah Lynn Selburg on May 24, 1998, in Peoria, Ill.
Surviving are his mother, Daunie Ayers Taylor of Holland, Mich.; his wife, Debbie Selburg Ayers of Alexandria, Va.; daughters, Aimee (Bill) Mansfield of Springfield, Ill., and Tami (Bill) Lamprecht of East Peoria, Ill.; grandchildren, Carlee, Porter, Brenin, Tatym, Taryn and Taylor; his brother, Edward "Kent" (Nancy) Ayers of Douglas, Mich.; and several nieces and nephews.
He was preceded in death by his father, Edward Charles and stepfather, John Taylor.
Services will be held at 11 a.m. Saturday, April 21, 2012, at the First United Methodist Church, 116 NE Perry Ave., Peoria, Ill. Visitation will be from 1 to 3 p.m. and 5 to 8 p.m. Friday at Davison-Fulton Woolsey-Wilton Funeral Home, 2408 W. Willow Knolls Road, Peoria, Ill. Inurnment will be in White Chapel Memory Gardens in Canton, Ill., with military honors at 2 p.m. on Monday, April 23, 2012.
In lieu of flowers, the family requests donations are made to Vietnam Veterans Memorial Fund, 2600 Virginia Ave. NW Suite 104, Washington, D.C. 20037, or the Central Illinois Chapter of the American Red Cross.
Online tributes and condolences may be left at www.Woolsey-Wilton.com.