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Losing a link to our history

August 26, 2012
Weirton Daily Times

I was saddened Friday morning when I received the email informing me of the passing of David Weir.

David was the son of E.T. and Mary H. Weir, and part of the family from which Weirton takes its name.

I had the pleasure of meeting with David several times early on in my journalism career, and enjoyed each of those experiences, always coming away with stories of years past and insight into what our community had been and, more importantly, what it still can be.

I first met David in 2004 while Weirton Steel was being sold to the International Steel Group and much of its excess property was being auctioned off. Among that property was the house most of us have known as "The Lodge," located on Marland Heights next to Williams Country Club.

David's father had the house built and the family used it as a getaway when they needed a break from life in Pittsburgh.

We spent much of that first meeting with him taking myself and a few others from the community on a tour of the house, telling us stories of his father, of his childhood fear of a black bathtub in the house which, when it was filled with water, appeared to have no bottom, of Tom Millsop lugging -?on foot - a bag full of food, supplies and toys to the house during a particularly bad snow storm, and of many other childhood memories of his time in Weirton.

During subsequent visits, I had the chance to meet his wife, Gretchen, and their children, Maisie and Gregory.

During our conversations, I could tell there was some disappointment to see the business his father built was slowly disappearing.

It had, after all, been a part of, not just the town, but also his family's history.

At the same time, there was still a sense of pride in the true legacy of his family; the Weirton community.

He saw much of the same potential his father did years ago, both for the city of Weirton and its people. I think that's part of why he continued to visit periodically in the years since. The Weir family did more for Weirton than bringing a steel mill, after all. They were responsible for many of the city's early businesses, Mary H. Weir helped to lead efforts to establish the library, and the family contributed toward a variety of recreation opportunities and community events, including the Margaret Manson Weir Memorial Pool and the original version of the Festival of Nations.

He was happy to learn of the early efforts to establish what has become the Weirton Area Museum and Cultural Center, even donating items from his family so they could be viewed and appreciated by the citizens of Weirton.

I also know he came back other times simply to quietly visit with friends, and would keep in touch with several residents by phone and email.

I only wish I could have spent more time getting to know him and learning from him.

David was one of the few remaining links we have to much of this community's early history. While many of us know the names, he actually knew the people and could share his stories and knowledge of them.

That link is now gone, but those of us who are here can still carry on the dream and the legacy of David's family and all those who worked to make Weirton what it is, with a hope for a great community for all those who are a part of it.

It is up to all of us to keep that legacy burning, not only for the current residents of Weirton, but for future generations as well.

That legacy, that flame, that sense of civic hope and pride was started years ago, but can still be seen by those willing to look.

It can be found in the work of organizations like the United Way, Salvation Army and Community Bread Basket, who reach out to help the less fortunate. It can be found at the Mary H. Weir Public Library, with its shelves of books and other resources to aid us in gaining knowledge. It can be found at the Weirton Museum and the Top of West Virginia Convention and Visitors Bureau, helping to promote the city's past and its future.

Most importantly, it can be found in each of us as long as we are willing to let it be shown.

We each have an opportunity to do something to make this city better for the future, whether it is felt across the community or just in our own little corner of it.

Rest in peace, David. We'll do our best to keep things going.

(Howell, a resident of Colliers, is managing editor of The Weirton Daily Times, and can be contacted at or followed on Twitter @CHowellWDT)

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