Even as he dealt with his own health issues, Cecil Vaughan didn't stop his constant mission to help the blue-collar worker.
“Literally within a week of getting out of the hospital, he went to Jeff City to talk with legislators because he thought he could make a difference,” Vaughan's neighbor Deb Twyman said. “Against the doctor's recommendation.”
Vaughan, a longtime union advocate, former Jackson County legislator and a man beloved in Independence's Truman Historic District neighborhood for the helping hands he extended to residents, died last Saturday at the age of 77.
Over the course of his working years and in retirement years, Vaughan worked at several companies, including the former Libby Welding; was on the executive and advisory boards of the United Steelworkers of America; and served as bargaining chair for United Auto Workers Local 710. He also served on the Democratic County Committee for four years and on the Jackson County Legislature 1985-87.
In the community, Vaughan also served the city with tenures on the personnel review board and industrial development authority, and he was a former member of the Jackson County Historical Society Board of Directors.
While Cecil and his wife Kathryn didn't have children, Twyman said the neighborhood was his family, and the union was his family.
“Cecil cared very passionately about the working man and working woman, devoted life to helping them,” Twyman said. “He thought people deserved an honest wage for good, solid day's work.
“He lived it, breathed it, slept it.”
“A true character and a person of great character,” remembers Brent Schondelmeyer, a longtime friend and fellow preservationist. “He cared deeply about his neighborhood, his community and his friends.”
Vaughan had an “unending, insatiable” interest in all politics, he said.
“He was an old-style, loyal, union member and organizer who championed causes and candidates – Democrats without exception,” Schondelmeyer said. “He was a fierce campaigner, but he respected and was civil towards his opponents because he appreciated their willingness to engage in the democratic process.”
Jim Posey, who knew Vaughan through their work with Local 710, recalled how in 1978 Vaughan drove around the state trying to garner votes against a right-to-work ballot measure.
“He spent a lot of time in Jefferson City representing the union with issues, on his own for the most part,” said Posey, who lives in Gladstone. “He was a hard worker, he was serious about what he was doing and he looked out for working people– a lot of volunteer time.”
Schondelmeyer said when Vaughan and his wife purchased a late-19th century Queen Anne House in the historic district, many homes there were in disrepair and on the market, and their restoration effort was an early catalyst for the district's revitalization.
“Poured their hearts and money into the project,” Schondelmeyer said.
Twyman recalls how Vaughan always welcomed and looked out for neighbors, never keeping score. When her father was on dialysis, Vaughan would see when her mother brought him home, so he could help get him into the house.
“If he saw you were struggling, he would show up,” Twyman said. “He was courageous and never complained (through cancer and heart disease); he just got back up again. He had a heart of gold.
“He was a beloved person in a neighborhood which overflows with stories,” Schondelmeyer added. “Cecil added his own.”
Services for Vaughan will be scheduled at a later date. His obituary appears on page A7.