Bernard "Bernie" McKinnon

February 12, 1937November 7, 2020

Bernard ‘Bernie’ McKinnon, 83, of Southington unexpectantly passed away quietly in his sleep on Saturday, November 7 at Jerome Home in New Britain. Born in Caribou, ME to the late Fred and Victoria (Belanger) MacKinnon, Bernie moved to Connecticut in 1952 and after graduating from New Britain High, joined his parents working at Fafnir Bearing, becoming a UAW member in 1955. In addition to the Union, Bernie was active in local politics and social justice issues. Many of his views on social justice were formed during his early years growing up with his four sisters and one brother in Caribou, picking potatoes and doing farm work, and during his early education at the Oblate of Mary Immaculate Seminary in Bucksport, Maine.

In 1963, Bernie got on the bus and marched in the Civil Rights March on Washington. He worked his way up through the ranks of his local union, eventually becoming a long time Local 133 President. Bernie served on the Board of Directors for various organizations including Catholic Family Services, the New Britain United Way, the United Labor Agency (ULA) and the Community Council. As Local President, Bernie led a six-month strike against Fafnir in 1979.

Bernie was next elected as the UAW Region 9A CAP President and then became the CAP Director. In this capacity, Bernie had responsibility for making sure the voices of UAW members were heard at the State Capitols throughout New England and personally lobbied in each one. Many Connecticut labor lobbyists and activists fondly recall getting help and learning the ropes at the CT State Capitol from Bernie in the years before the Legislative Office Building was built.

Bernie helped to establish the CT Citizens Action Group (CCAG), was active in the Legislative Electoral Action Program (LEAP) and the Connecticut Caucus of Democrats (CCD). Bernie helped mobilize UAW political activity in local, state and federal elections. He organized busloads of UAW members to volunteer in New Hampshire during the Presidential primaries.

In 1991, Bernie was recruited to Washington DC to work for the UAW as a legislative activist. He spent nearly ten years on the Hill being a voice for all working people. Bernie gained the respect of members of Congress on both sides of the aisle as being a ‘real and genuine’ person that would speak the plain truth about how an issue would directly affect working people. While in DC, Bernie was active in his county Democratic Committee and served as a Trustee for the National Democratic Club. Upon his retirement in 2000, Bernie returned to Connecticut.

During his life, Bernie was a cub scout master, a Southington Band Backer, a Trustee for the Southington Elks, a member of the Southington Democratic Town Committee and a member of the Southington AARP. He served as President of the UAW Local 133 retiree chapter. Bernie was an active member of the CT Alliance of Retired Americans which honored him in 2014, and a long time Board of Director Member of CCAG, which honored him in 2016.

Bernie is survived by his wife Judie, his patient and understanding partner for more than 59 years. He leaves behind one son Ken McKinnon and his wife Pam, two daughters Lisa McKinnon, and Jill McKinnon Hoffman and her husband Geoff. Also, grandchildren Michael, Patrick, Shawna and Peter, great granddaughter Sunny Mae, and numerous nieces, nephews, and godchildren. Bernie was predeceased by his brother Roch MacKinnon, his sisters Carolyn Malady and Angela Orzolek and sister-in-law Susan Fitzpatrick. He leaves behind his sisters Rita (and Tom) Agritelly, and Theresa King, his brothers-in-law Richard Orzolek and John (and Eve) Sarra. Bernie loved to be around people, was a natural leader and joiner. ‘Terrible’ Bernie’s smile and good nature will be sorely missed by all who knew and loved him. Solidarity Forever! The McKinnon Family thanks everyone at Jerome Home and Arbor Rose for their help, friendship, and thoughtfulness.

Due to COVID-19, funeral services will be private. DellaVecchia Funeral Home in Southington is in charge of the arrangements. Donations may be made to Foodshare or any progressive social organization of the donor’s choice. For online condolences please visit


Bernard "Bernie" McKinnon

have a memory or condolence to add?

Patricia Collins

March 19, 2021

I am so sorry to hear of the loss of your Dad. Sending you all my love.
Trish Collins

toby Moffett

November 18, 2020

it was four days before Christmas in 1979. I was 35 and in my third term. The galleries in the US House of Representatives were packed in anticipation of the vote on whether to provide bailout assistance to Chrysler, the automaker.
It was one of just a few times since I was first sworn in to Congress that I had been undecided about how to vote.
I hated what the bailout opponents called "socialized free enterprise", the idea that a big companies should be rescued by the taxpayers. But I also worried about the impact on autoworkers if Congress didn't act.
My staff, unaccustomed to any waffling by me, was furious, even though they were split as I was torn.
The bells rang alerting us that we had fifteen minutes to get to the House floor to cast our votes electronically.
It was a cold day but I walked from my Cannon Building across the Capitol lawn, up the long stone stairway past the guards and into the chamber.
I looked to my right into the visitors' gallery and saw a sea of yellow jackets. The UAW members. And there, in the middle of that crowd was Bernie McKinnon, looking down at me, smiling, of course.
It was one of those sobering moments where you ask yourself how you could have possibly been undecided.
Those people in the yellow jackets hadn't just supported my very underdog candidacy for Congress five years earlier, one that pitted us against a then very powerful party establishment. They had just about carried me to Congress on their shoulders.
I put my voting card in the slot. I pressed the green "YES" button. I looked up at the alphabetical scoreboard and saw a green light go on next to my name. I turned again to the gallery. I looked at Bernie and threw him a kiss.
"Thank you Bernie".
Thank you so much for all you did, for all you empowered and inspired.
More than four decades later, Bernie has left us. Sort of. He's no doubt still inspiring, still advocating, still lobbying for the common good.

Mary Anne Orzolek

November 17, 2020

So sorry for your family's loss. Bernie was a great man. I always knew when he was around that he would make me chuckle. He just had a great, warm, fun personality. He lit up a room. May God grant him eternal rest.

Charlotte Koskoff

November 15, 2020

Dear McKinnon Family,

Getting to know Bernie McKinnon was one of my best gifts from the years I spent in politics.

Bernie knew the issues, knew the history, knew the players. He was generous with his time and expertise. He was enthusiastic in his support of good candidates and good policy. Most important, he was an unfailing advocate for social and economic justice.

Bernie made this world a better place.

I am so sorry for your loss.
Charlotte Koskoff

Deidra Ierardi

November 15, 2020

Dear McKinnon family: I met Bernie over 40 years ago when Toby Moffett was our congressman. For the next 30 years, I was lucky to work with Bernie and to meet his family. Whether he was leading the 1979 Fafnir strike - I believe it lasted for nearly six months - or whether he was walking the halls of the US Congress, Bernie never lost his way. He set an example for me: Integrity, respect, intelligence and a sense of humor were the leadership qualities he shared with me and with so many others.

When Bernie and Judie moved to Washington, Bernie again showed me how things worked - or didn’t! And,Judie opened her home to me for a great home away from home Thanksgiving dinner. I have a DNC Peter Max poster that they gave me. It’s framed in my living room.

So, McKinnon family, thank you for sharing Bernie with us and for sharing your home with me.

Warm regards and fond memories, Deidra

Win Heimer

November 14, 2020

Dear McKinnon Family-
There have been so many words so eloquently expressed here in tribute to Bernie. I can only add that I share the sense of loss that we all feel. Bernie was kind, gracious and loving but also a fierce fighter on behalf of working people. I worked with him through LEAP, CCAG, CCD and the CT Alliance for Retired Americans and can attest to his ardor, compassion and dedication.
He is an inspiration to us all.

John King

November 14, 2020

Bernie was a great man and advisor. In my experience, he was warm, always of good humor but direct in his counsel. He did not look for attribution or praise. Our prayers are with him and his family, especially Lisa who shares his community purpose and compassion.

Vilma Torres-Mulholland

November 13, 2020

Bernie will always participate in every demonstration and gave a fight for social justice. He was never afraid to tell the employers and politicians where get off.
It was a pleasure to be around him listening to his stories and laughing at his jokes.

Rest in power and peace Bernie!
Vilma& Pat Mulholland
Local 2179

Bob King

November 13, 2020

Bernie was an outstanding advocate not just for UAW members but for all workers & their families. He was a fierce champion for social justice and a kind and generous person. I appreciate his many years of dedication and commitment for our UAW families and for all workers.

Geoff Hoffman

November 12, 2020

I’m going to miss my father in law.
I thank him for the stories of drag racing, 3 family roofing and electrical work up to your knees in water.
I thank him for rushing over with Judie to eat his favorite meals. He really liked the blackened salmon skin.
I thank him for the memories of us touring aircraft museums in DC. And critiquing every driver on the road.
I mostly thank him for his daughter, Jill. She’s a wonderful caring wife. She makes me whole.
Thank you for everything Dad. Rest in peace, we all miss you.