It is with a heavy heart that the IAM announces the passing of our beloved Sister, Grand Lodge Representative Maria Santiago Lillis. Sister Lillis was a trailblazer in every sense of the word. She was a mentor to many and a tireless champion for workers’, women, and human rights.
Maria was a great listener with time for her friends and our membership. She was selfless as she was determined and left a lasting positive impression on so many people. She was an influential leader who continually challenged our society to do better and be better, no inch given but a powerful respect and warmth in every encounter.
“Sister Lillis was a true journeywoman in her steadfast dedication to our members,” said IAM Western Territory General Vice President Gary R. Allen. “Words cannot describe the loss we are all feeling. Sister Lillis and I have worked together for over 20 years, and it was an absolute honor not only to consider her a friend and colleague, but part of my family.”
Sister Lillis was assigned to the State of Hawaii, where she was responsible for overseeing the servicing and organizing activities for IAM Local 1998, along with protecting related interests of the Machinists Union statewide, and on the mainland when required. During her tenor, she helped developed a leadership team that grew the local and raised the standard of living for countless members on the islands. Her leadership bled over to the mainland where she assisted several districts and locals with a transformational approach in developing women’s committees.
“Sister Lillis approached her work with such compassion and grit,” said IAM International President Robert Martinez Jr. “She not only had tremendous passion for her work, but she did it as effectively as any representative this organization has ever seen. Our union and the countless members she has assisted over the years will solely miss Maria. On behalf of the entire Executive Council, we send our profound thoughts and prayers to her husband Bob, their entire family, and the Western Territory leadership and staff during this incredibly difficult time.”
Formerly from Philadelphia, GLR Lillis’ previous background included community activism and advocacy for Native Hawaiian families. Additionally, she spent 13 years in the private sector in the field of chemical dependency. Maria worked the full range from detox, rehabilitation, counseling, prevention, training professionals, producing training videos, curricula, evaluation tools and consultation, eventually earning promotion to manager.
Sister Lillis is survived by her husband, IAM Local 1998 President Bob Lillis, and her two daughters, Sonia and Ana Lillis.