Wherever there was action in the Quad-Cities, there was Dick Fallow.
A war protest. A union rally. A library grand opening. Fallow was there.
The lanky legend could be spotted among 20-somethings at a peace rally or in the middle of sign-waving laborers at a pro-union march.
Despite his regular public appearances, however, Fallow was best known for his work behind the scenes.
The 92-year-old died Saturday at his home in Davenport. He is described by friends, family and those who simply admired him as a man for the people — all the people.
“Words don’t do justice to how deeply Dick Fallow’s life and work impacted me and others," said Rep. Bruce Braley, D-Iowa. "I will miss him greatly, and I extend my sincere condolences to his family.”
Braley is one of at least five past and present members of the U.S. Congress who credit Fallow with their careers in politics. When he liked and trusted a candidate, friends said, he backed them with the kind of Fallow fervor that got things done in other aspects of his life. His political activism was second only to his love of labor.
Former Illinois U.S. Rep. Phil Hare said he first met Fallow while working with retired Rep. Lane Evans and called Fallow "one of the greatest labor people that ever lived."
"I don’t think they will make another Dick Fallow, ever. The world is a lot better off because of him."
Added the Quad-Cities' newest representative, Cheri Bustos: "The working men and women of our region, and the entire country, suffered a great loss with Dick Fallow’s passing. Dick Fallow spent his life fighting to better the lives of others. He was a tireless advocate for the American worker and a champion for civil rights. Gerry (Bustos' husband) and I extend our deepest condolences to his family."
As a young man, Fallow was exposed to war during a trip to Europe in the late 1930s. He was horrified by the mistreatment of human beings by fellow human beings, he once said, adding the experience lit in him a passion for justice. Labor issues of the day only fanned the flames, and Fallow became an impassioned labor leader.
He became so effective at organizing labor unions and moving people, he quickly became a high-demand presence. Dispatched to Davenport in 1952, he joined the staff of the AFL-CIO and focused his work on politics as the director of COPE (Committee on Political Education). He worked with state Federations of Labor in Iowa, Wisconsin and Minnesota.
Although he is described as a rousing public speaker, Fallow had the greatest impact while out of the public eye.
In an interview about Fallow two years ago, Jerry Messer, longtime leader of the Quad-City Federation of Labor, described him in terms usually reserved for beloved family members.
"It's never been about Dick Fallow," he said. "It's about everybody else. He knows he's most effective behind the scenes, and that's where he has stayed. He could have risen right up through the ranks — right to the top. But that stuff doesn't mean anything to Dick.
"He's been like a father to me, and I admire the hell out of him."
Fallow was a father to three daughters: Jean Fallow of Arlington, Va., Bobbie Fersch of Davenport and Renee Conklin of Moline.
During a 2010 interview that preceded his 90th birthday, Fallow was asked how he hoped to be remembered. He twice avoided the question. Asked why her father declined to answer, Conklin said, "He believed in living in the moment. You live in the moment, and you work on change while you're in that moment.
"The question didn't apply to that moment. In Dad's mind, why think of that when there's stuff to do right now?"
Conklin and her sisters had to share their father with his many jobs, interests and passions, which included a love of music and playing his accordion. But Fallow made clear, especially in the end, that the most important things in his life weren't things.
"He told my sister, 'You feel no deeper love than when you look at your children,'" Conklin said.
Many more people than Fallow's three daughters are grieving his death.
“The organized labor movement has lost one of its great leaders," Braley said Tuesday. "To me, Dick Fallow was a hero, a mentor, a role model, and a dear, dear friend. To so many others, he was a legend who dedicated his life to strengthening the voice of working men and women in the Quad-Cities and across the country. He was a clear voice for people who didn't have a voice to speak for themselves.
“Most importantly, to his family, Dick Fallow was a dedicated and loving husband, father and grandfather."
Fallow attended so many local events, he regularly was quoted in the Quad-City Times.
Jan. 27, 2007, at an Iraq war protest in Rock Island: "We need to have a debate on this war, and we haven't had that. This is a healthy thing that's going on with this march."
Jan. 14, 2006, at the opening of the Fairmount Street Library in Davenport: "It's tremendous. I love to see my tax money going for such a positive, constructive thing. I can't speak too highly of it. I can't even tell you how very pleased I am."
Sept. 16, 2003, at an immigration rally in Davenport: "An injury to one, we have found, is an injury to all. You cannot build fancy fences around fairness."
April 27, 2002, at a rally to support the East Moline Correctional Center during talks of closure: "The government belongs to the people and not to the fat cats. It's time we take it back."