on December 20, 2013 - 6:21 PM
Oct. 3, 1926 – Dec. 3, 2013
Wilbert G. “Chief” Brant, of Williamsville, a labor leader and a standout baseball player in his youth, died Dec. 3 in St. John the Baptist Hospice House. He was 87.
Mr. Brant came to Buffalo from Oshawa, Ont., in 1946 and turned down a contract offer from the Boston Braves to become a bus driver for what was then Niagara Frontier Transit.
He was president of the 1,450-member bus drivers union, Division 1342, Amalgamated Transit Union, from 1970 to 1972. During his tenure, drivers staged a massive call-in that shut down the bus system for one day to protest a series of violent incidents involving high school students.
After that, Mr. Brant pursued a career in labor relations. He was labor liaison for the United Way, the March of Dimes and the Union Pacific Railroad. He also took part in the new field of employee assistance, which helps people on the job with personal problems.
In 1975, he left Buffalo to become labor director of the labor-management task force on the national staff of the AFL-CIO. There he worked to get companies and unions to set up employee assistance programs, focusing on alcoholism. He was honored for his work in the field by the EAP Digest and the National Alcohol Congress of EAP. He was inducted into the National EAP Hall of Fame.
Although he never played pro baseball, he played locally at the amateur level for many years. He was inducted into the Western New York Softball Hall of Fame in 1984. He also coached softball teams.
After retiring in 1989, Mr. Brant concentrated on his other passion, golf. He played and served as a caddy and ranger in Buffalo and Florida until last year. He was longtime caddy for leading local amateur golfer Bob Rosen.
His wife of 40 years, the former Connie Alleca, who also was a bus driver, died in 2010.
Survivors include two daughters, Karen Ernst and Judy D’Erba Graser; and a brother, Clayton.
Services were private.