Stephen Lakich


Stephen “Steve” Lakich, 86, of Washington State, passed away on January 31 with his loving wife of 51 years, Cheryl, by his side and surrounded by family. He will be remembered for his honesty and integrity, straightforward manner, acceptance of others, stubbornness and generosity.

Steve lived with Cheryl on Bainbridge Island for nearly 30 years, enjoying the nature of the Pacific Northwest that he referred to as “God’s country.” Previously, they resided in Sacramento, California, where they met, were married and raised their family.

Steve was born in Cleveland, Ohio to parents Milos and Mary May Lakich, both of Yugoslavian decent. He and his older brother Mike were raised in Fontana, California with the help of their Aunt Bertha after the death of their parents.

Steve was a member of Fontana High School’s first graduating class in 1955 and then joined the United States Marine Corps. After three years, he returned to Fontana to complete his education, graduating with a business administration degree from Cal Poly Pomona. While working at the Kaiser Steel plant in Fontana, Steve developed a passion for labor relations that would later define his long career spent at the bargaining table representing both employees and management.

As an active member of the United Steelworkers of America, Steve advocated for better pay and working conditions for employees. A year-long internship with UCLA’s Center for Labor Research and Education brought him to Los Angeles, where he coordinated educational activities for all local Southern California unions and conducted research in the field of industrial relations.

Steve then set to work organizing bus drivers, trash collectors and other municipal employees in Santa Monica and representing them in negotiations with the city. Later he joined AFSCME as its district director for Northern California, rebuilt its membership in Sacramento and established it as a leading advocate for state and local government employees.

For the next 30 years, Steve worked on behalf of city, county and state governments to negotiate with employees. He directed labor relations for both the City and County of Sacramento as well the City of Seattle, and helped lead employee relations for former Governor Jerry Brown. He also spent more than 20 years teaching the next generation of labor negotiators as an instructor with UC Davis Extension. Steve was also civically engaged with organizations such as the Bainbridge Island City Council and the California Association of Highway Patrolmen, among others.

Steve enjoyed reading newspapers, following the latest political news, supporting his local sports teams, caring for his dogs and, with Cheryl, hosting family and friends at their beachfront home.

Steve was preceded in death by his parents Milos and Mary May, aunt Bertha and brother Mike. He is survived by his wife Cheryl Lakich, children Duane Muller (Peter), Joseph Lakich (Amanda), and Kristi Lakich, along with eight grandchildren and a large and loving extended family.

A celebration of Steve’s life will be held on Bainbridge Island on July 27.

In lieu of flowers, the family respectfully requests contributions in Steve’s memory be made to any of the following organizations:

· Helpline House (

· Island Volunteer Caregivers (

· Bainbridge Island Senior/Community Center (