Steelworkers to recall fallen colleagues
WEIRTON – Family, friends and co-workers will gather at 9 a.m. Thursday at the Steelworkers Memorial Park to remember the 117 men who died while working in the Weirton Steel plant from 1919 to 1999.
A bagpiper will play, two volunteers will ring a bell, and the names of all 117 steelworkers will be read during the hour-long ceremony that is open to the public.
The first name to be read Thursday morning will be Lewis Chaney. The 21-year-old Chaney was the first work-related casualty in the new steel mill when he died on April 11, 1919, “from a concussion of the brain due to being struck on the head by a piece of steel.”
The last fatality at the Weirton mill came on Oct. 16, 1999, when Marvin Clifton was fatally injured while working on the railroad.
“I can remember several of these guys, and there is a story behind each name. They are all tragic but interesting at the same time,” according to Mike Jacobs, safety and health coordinator for the United Steelworkers Local 2911 in Weirton.
“Fortunately, we have not had a fatal accident in the mill since 1999. The union and the company, along with our safety people, work very hard to educate the workers on the need for safety. To lose someone to a mill-related accident is a terrible loss,” said Jacobs.
“We invite everyone who ever worked in the mill to join us for the ceremony. Bob Hoover and Bob Macek, both pastors and steelworkers, will read the names of our fallen steelworkers. And, we will ring a bell after each name to remember those steelworkers. We want the families to know we have not forgotten the fallen steelworkers,” Jacobs said.
Jacobs said the union is still trying to reach family members of steelworkers fatally injured in the Weirton mill.
“A lot of the records have been lost over the past 100 years. So if there is a family member who had someone killed in the steel mill, please contact the union hall at (304) 748-8080. We have added nine names to our memorial wall during the past two years,” Jacobs said.
“April 26 is Workers Memorial Day for us. It is also Global Health and Safety Day for ArcelorMittal. The union and the company have several events planned for the day, all designed to increase safety awareness,” Jacobs said.
Current steelworker Earl Tuttle will talk about his father, Ira Tuttle, who was fatally injured in the steel mill on Jan. 22, 1963.
The Weirton Steelworkers Memorial project was started in 2004 by officials of the former Independent Steelworkers Union who hoped to create a memorial park to honor those who died in the mill or as a result of work-related injuries.
Weirton officials donated the corner lot at Main Street and Pennsylvania Avenue to the project and have agreed to maintain the property.
“It has been a long time coming, but I am very glad the memorial has been completed. These people made the ultimate sacrifice while working in the mill. It is only right that we remember them with this memorial listing their names and remember them every year on Worker Memorial Day,” said Mark Glyptis, president of USW Local 2911.
“I am very pleased we have had the cooperation of the city and the company in creating this memorial. The number of steelworkers who were fatally injured in the 1930s, 1940s, 1950s and 1960s is staggering. Fortunately, we have all learned how to work safer. But when I walk in the strip steel where Bob Pitcock died in 1992, or the tin mill where Ronald Heaton died and near the railroad site where Marvin Clifton died, I still remember those men and what happened. It’s something we can’t ever forget,” Glyptis said.
“I hope and pray we never have another fatality in our mill. But we don’t want to forget those who died. The memorial service is open to the public, and I will welcome all surviving family members to join us as we remember our fallen steelworkers,” he added.