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Michael Paras, general manager transportation for The Belt Railway Co. of Chicago, died unexpectedly at his home in Naperville, Ill., on July 30, the American Short Line and Regional Railroad Association (ASLRRA) announced yesterday. Paras was 61.A longtime railroader and active member of the ASLRRA, Paras began his 43-year career at the Denver & Rio Grande Western Railroad. He served in various capacities, including clerk, trainman, yardmaster and trainmaster. He later was a service unit superintendent and general manager of safety initiatives at Union Pacific Railroad.Paras served as chairman of the ASLRRA Technology Committee and was a frequent speaker and volunteer at ASLRRA events."Mike was a passionate voice for the short line industry," said ASLRRA President Linda Bauer Darr in a prepared statement. "His wisdom and leadership will be missed.""Mike was a wonderful person and a dear friend for decades," added Jo Strang, ASLRRA's vice president of safety and regulatory policy. "He was one of the most knowledgeable and helpful people around. He lit up every room he was in and his wry wit was unmatched. He will be greatly missed by all."Paras also served on the American Association of Railroad Superintendents' (AARS) board, and gave leadership and rail presentations at the University of Wisconsin-Madison's rail operations courses and Michigan State University’s Certificate of Railway Management Program. In 2013, Paras received AARS' Operations Leadership Award.Paras is survived by his wife, Stacey, and their children Andrea and Matthew.