Sunday, April 25, 2010

Upper Big Branch Mine Memorial: Bless them all

The American flag and the Massey Energy Co. flags are seen at half staff, Friday, April 9, 2010, in Rock Creek, W.Va. The flags were lowered for those killed in an explosion at Massey Energy Co.'s Upper Big Branch mine in Montcoal, W.Va. (AP Photo/Ed Reinke)

West Virginia Gov. Joe Manchin wears a ribbon on his shirt pocket to honor coal miners who were involved in the explosion at the Massey Energy Co.'s Upper Big Branch mine in Montcoal, W. Va. on Friday, April 9, 2010. (AP Photo/Amy Sancetta)

Today there is a memorial service being held to honour all the miners who lost their lives in the recent mine explosion in West Virginia.

The Patriot Guard Riders will not be there, in what has to be a first in the history of the PGR. As most people know, the PGR stands for our fallen, as a show of respect. Yes, the PGR always attends when requested by the families of the fallen, and yes, they were invited by some of the mining families for whom today's service will a sombre homage to their loved ones:

Patriot Guard Riders Won't Be at Miners' Memorial

The Patriot Guard Riders are known for helping to lead funeral processions and standing in silent honor with their American Flags. But they won't be at this weekends Upper Big Branch Mine Memorial.

CHARLESTON, W.Va. (WSAZ) -- The Patriot Guard Riders are known for helping to lead funeral processions, and standing in silent honor with their American Flags. But they won't be at this weekends Upper Big Branch Mine Memorial.

The ride captain, Pat Hanifin, says he sat down with someone from Gov. Joe Manchin's office. During that discussion, he learned that --because of overwhelming security concerns with high-ranking federal officials -- it was just not logistically possible for them to be a part of the event.

Hanifin says it was tough to hear because some family members of fallen miners had asked for them to be there.

"It is a great disappointment that we are not able to do what we were requested to do," he said. "However, I felt no sense whatsoever either from the Governor's office, or any indication that it would be a problem for the Secret Service, that we were going to be there. It was just the fact that they were challenged with security issues that would not allow us to participate."

Hanifin says they also tried to attend by showing support alongside the road but -- because families were taking a different route and would not see them -- the major effort did not seem practical.

Several members, including Hanifin, say they are truly sad that they won't be at there. But they want the miners' families to know they continue to be in their thoughts and prayers.(here) [And yes, emphasis mine]..

Apparently President Obama will be there, along with VP Biden and who all knows how many other 'dignitaries' and 'important people.' I also read somewhere that a certain 'church' group has plans to attend and share their views. Maybe secret service can show them the error of their ways? Just a thought.

It would be really easy for me to focus on the political in this tragedy, but I'll leave that to the professional politicians. This is neither the time nor the place, in my humble opinion.

The focus for me today is the miners and their families. These men and their loved ones are in my thoughts and prayers today:

CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Following are the names and ages of the 29 miners killed in last week's Upper Big Branch Mine explosion, according to the state Medical Examiner's Office, which released the identities Thursday:

| Carl Acord, 52

Carl Acord shared a big Easter dinner with family on Sunday and doted on his infant grandsons, 9-month-old Chase and 3-month-old Cameron, said his sister Sherry Cline.

"He was looking forward to riding them around on the tractor this summer," Cline said. "He kept talking about that at Easter dinner."

Acord also enjoyed fishing with his two sons, 24-year-old Cody and 19-year-old Casey.

Even though he was about 6 feet tall, everyone called Acord "Pee Wee" -- which he hated.

"That was his nickname since he was a little tyke. It just stuck," Cline said.

Acord, 52, had worked in mines for 34 years and liked the work, Cline said. But he told his family on Sunday that he was concerned about the mine's roof and worried about going to work Monday.

Miner Carl "PeeWee" Acord of Bolt, WV is seen in an undated photo provided by the Acord family holding his grand nephew Rylan Wilson, left, of Henderson NC and his grandson Chase Acord. Carl Acord is one of the miners killed in Monday's Upper Big Branch mine explosion. (AP Photo/The Acord family) [here]

| Jason Atkins, 25

Jason Atkins was born and raised in Boone County, near the coal mine where he lost his life, said his father-in-law, Rick Withers. The 25-year-old miner and his wife, Amanda, 28, met when they were students at West Virginia Tech and got married in 2008, Withers said. Amanda Atkins could not be reached for comment Tuesday.

Withers said he was not sure when Atkins began working at the mine.

"He was an hourly guy," Withers said.

Atkins played second base on his high school and college baseball teams but left West Virginia Tech without graduating, Withers said. He enjoyed golfing.

| Christopher Bell, 33

Christopher Lee Bell Sr., 33, of Crab Orchard, spent most of his time outside of work with his wife, Angela, and four children, Alexis, Meadow, Christopher Jr. and Skylar.

According to his obituary, his hobbies included art and detailing vehicles.

| Gregory Steven Brock, 47

Gregory Steven Brock, 47, of Clear Creek, juggled life in the mines with being involved in his children's activities. He often picked up his 12-year-old son for baseball and basketball games and brought him to a nearby store for soda and pizza, said store operator Glen Duncan.

Brock also has a daughter, two grandchildren, two sisters and two brothers.

"He's just a good, hard-working man and a good daddy," Duncan said.

According to his obituary, Brock had been an electrician at the mine for 10 years. He enjoyed hunting, fishing, NASCAR and spending time on his farm where he grew vegetables and flowers every year. (Washington Examiner: here)

| Kenneth Allan Chapman, 53

Kenny Chapman was a roof bolter in the mines. His second job, it seemed, was making others laugh.

He'd have stories to tell about his hunting and four-wheeling excursions or his fishing trips to Indian Mills, Plum Orchard Lake or Burnsville Lake.

The 53-year-old Fairdale resident's specialty was practical jokes.

"He always would be like he couldn't hear you and he would come up and (grab) people or tell jokes that would always get a laugh," said a nephew, Mike Chapman. "He was somebody that always had a good time."

Chapman has a 13-year-old son, Mikey, with his wife, and three children from a previous marriage.

"He was really close with his family and his brothers," Mike Chapman said.

| Robert Clark, 41

Just a few months ago, Robert E. Clark, 41, came forward and committed himself as a born-again Christian at the Beckley Church of God, his pastor said.

The decision in January offered a degree of solace Wednesday to Clark's churchgoing friends. He leaves behind his wife, Melissa, and a young son.

"It really is a big relief to know that all is well with his soul, that he can go to heaven," said the Rev. F.D. Sexton, who has spoken with Clark's family since the explosion at the mine. On Wednesday, Sexton said he remembered Clark's big smile as the miner left an Easter service at the church.

"Everything was still good with him as far as his soul was concerned," Sexton said.

Raleigh County Commissioner John Humphrey, who knew Clark from church, said he believed the miner had been working in the coal industry for several years.

"When he wasn't working, you'd see him at the church with the family and his in-laws," Humphrey said.

| Charles Timothy Davis, 51

Timmy Davis Sr. loved coal mining -- and when he wasn't doing that, he was out hunting and fishing.

"My dad was the best hunter and fisher you've ever seen. The biggest buck or bear would come to him so he could shoot them," said Timmy Davis Jr. "He's got five or six in here. He's killed a lot of big deer."

Davis Jr. said his uncle Tommy Davis and brother Cody Davis also were at the mine at the time and survived the blast.

Cody Davis and his father were best friends, Davis Jr. said. Cody Davis was on his way in at the time of the blast, said Davis Jr., who works as a coal truck driver.

"He loved to work underground," the younger Davis said of his father, who was from Cabin Creek, W.Va. "He loved that place."

| Cory Davis, 20

Cory Davis played baseball in high school and followed his family into the mines.

The 20-year-old from Dawes, W.Va., worked with his father, Tommy Davis, and cousin Timmy Davis Jr. at a surface mine, but all three were laid off in the past two years. And all three ended up at Massey.

Cory Davis loved the outdoors and would often spend his weekends at a family camp on a mountaintop.

"We'd just run around, build a fire, ride four-wheelers," Timmy Davis Jr. said. "Our life was kind of boring. We're kind of hill folks. We stay up on the mountain."

| Michael Lee Elswick, 56

Coal miners were the 'rock' of their families

Associated Press
04/17/10 11:35 AM EDT

| William I. Griffith, 54

William "Bob" Griffith came from a family of miners, went into the mines as a young man with his father and worked there like his brothers.

"He learned from the best," said Griffith's brother, Mike, who explained how the trade was a family tradition.

William Griffith lived in Glen Rogers with his wife, Marlene, and raised a son and daughter, said James Griffith, another of the late miner's brothers. When he wasn't working, Griffith and his wife were fixing up their 1967 Camaro.

His nephew, Jason Griffith, remembered his uncle's smile.

He was "always laughing, carrying on, joking," Jason said.

| Steven Harrah, 40

Steve Harrah -- known to his co-workers as "Smiley" -- was "always thoughtful and would give you a hand," his father-in-law said.

The 40-year-old enjoyed hunting deer in Pocahontas County, said father-in-law Jack Bowden Jr., who also is director of the Raleigh County Emergency Operating Center. Harrah lived in Cool Ridge, W.Va., with his kindergarten-age son, Zach, and wife of 10 years, Tammy.

His sister, Betty Harrah, said other workers thought of her brother as a good boss.

"He wouldn't ask them to do anything he wouldn't get down in there and do," she said.

"They went to the same high school, and they just knew each other and started dating," said Bowden, who choked up as he spoke. "It's pretty rough."

Harrah was leaving the mine when the explosion happened. The mining company told the family that Harrah was killed instantly, Bowden said.

| Edward Dean Jones, 50

Miners had one last dinner with families

By JOHN RABY | Posted: Tuesday, April 13, 2010 2:41 pm

For the West Virginia miners killed in last week's explosion, Easter dinner was the final time they would spend with relatives.

For Dean Jones, it wasn't his last taste of his mother-in-law's cooking.

Alice Peters said Jones loved deviled eggs in particular, and she fixed a tray of them on April 4. But she forgot to put the eggs on the dinner table. So after dinner she summoned Jones' 13-year-old son, Kyle, to go to the front porch to let his dad know that the eggs were available.

"He said he would take them home with him," Peters said....[...]

After Dean and Gina Jones were married about 16 years ago, he promised Peters he'd take swimming lessons if she would join him.

"Dean didn't know how to swim," said Peters, who had taken lessons with her two daughters when they were growing up.

Having the opportunity to learn how to swim "tickled him to death," Peters said.

After that, the family would put those lessons to use on annual vacations to Daytona Beach, Fla., she said...( Billings Gazette here)
| Richard K. Lane, 45

..."He had a heart of gold," said Schoolcraft, whose husband was best friends with him for more than two decades. "He gave us so much."...

| William Roosevelt Lynch, 59

William Roosevelt Lynch wore many hats, including that of a coal miner.

Over his career, the 59-year-old who went by Roosevelt was a teacher, coached three sports and was about to welcome his fourth grandchild into the world. He also worked in the mines for more than 30 years.

Lynch was among the dead, said his brother, Melvin Lynch of Mount Hope, who also was in the mine at the time.

Roosevelt Lynch was a longtime Oak Hill resident who coached basketball, football and track and taught on the high school and middle school levels.

"A lot of people around town called him coach," Melvin Lynch said. "He would substitute teach, then coach and then work in the mines. He used to have that rigorous schedule."

Oak Hill High basketball coach Fred Ferri said Roosevelt Lynch also competed in a summer basketball league in Beckley.

"He was in excellent condition," Ferri said. "He played last summer. He's out there running with kids. Roosevelt was a heck of an athlete."

| Nicholas Darrell McCroskey, 26

Nick McCroskey was a bundle of energy and devoted sports fan, said longtime friend Shanda Staton.

The 26-year-old Beckley resident "was full of life," Staton said. "I mean, he loved life."

McCroskey graduated from Bluefield State College in 2006 with an engineering degree and loved a variety of sports.

He regularly attended NASCAR events at Bristol Motor Speedway in Virginia also loved to go four-wheeling and dirt bike riding. He was a fan of baseball, water skiing, hunting and fishing and owned a motorcycle, Staton said.

"He was loyal," said Staton, who attended college with McCroskey. "He was sweet and helpful and underneath it all, he was kind hearted."

| Joe Marcum, 57

In addition to being a coal miner for more than 35 years, Joe Marcum of Laurel Creek was a charter member of the Lenore Volunteer Fire Department since 1982. The Democrat known as "Joe Bug" also was a mainstay in Mingo County politics.

Halcy Hatfield of Elk Creek, a longtime friend and former member of the Mingo County commission, said the 57-year-old Marcum owned a trailer near the mine site and sometimes stayed there instead of making the hour-plus drive home.

"He was a tough man. Hard worker," Hatfield said. "He's going to be badly missed by the whole community. A lot of people looked up to him and depended on him and he always came through."

Washington Examiner: here)

| Ronald Lee Maynor, 31

Ronald Lee Maynor of Clear Creek enjoyed hunting year-round. A photo of him hangs above an ice cream freezer at a local convenience store that doubles as a game-checking station. The photo shows him wearing camouflage and holding the head of a freshly shot deer.

According to his obituary, the 31-year-old Maynor helped his daughter, Kaitlyn, kill her first squirrel last year and took her fishing. He also enjoyed tossing a football and wrestling with his son, Hunter, and took him for rides on his all-terrain vehicle.

Maynor and his wife, Helen, were married 11 years.

| James E. Mooney, 50

James "Eddie" Mooney, 51, of Ashford, came from a sprawling family with six brothers and sisters. He and his wife, Sheila, were married for 33 years and have a daughter and son.

According to his obituary, Mooney loved to take his 1978 Corvette for a cruise on the weekends. He was an avid hunter and fisherman and loved to go camping and off-road riding.

(Washington Examiner)

| Adam Keith Morgan, 21

Adam Morgan wore No. 24 on Wyoming East High School's football team in his senior year in 2006 when the Warriors made the state Class AA playoffs.

More than his athletic abilities, Principal Barry Smith recalled Morgan for his manners.

"As a principal you don't remember everyone, but you do remember kids who are nice and students who are polite, and that's what I remember about him," Smith said. "Very cordial and just kind of quiet."

Wyoming East held a moment of silence Monday for Morgan, 21, of Pineville, and three other victims of the disaster — 2001 graduate Nick McCroskey and two miners whose relatives worked at the school.

| Rex L. Mullins, 50

"He really loved West Virginia," said Mullins' brother, Clay Mullins of Pax. "He always had football jerseys and basketball jerseys."

Mullins said his 50-year-old brother regularly attended Mountaineer football games in Morgantown and basketball games during annual trips to Charleston.

| Joshua S. Napper, 25

Josh Napper was a hulking man with a simple claim to fame: He could bench press more than 500 pounds.

"If there was any way he could, he could have moved half that mountain," said Napper's cousin, Timmy Davis Jr. "That's about all he did was lift weights."

The 25-year-old Napper came to work in the coal mines just two months ago after working in the health care industry in his hometown of Rutland, Ohio, Davis said.

"He made decent money in Ohio," Davis said. "He just knew it was more money underground. He came here for the money."

Napper lived in Giles, W.Va., with his grandparents and spent his days off with his infant daughter, Davis said.

| Howard D. Payne, 53

Howard "Boone" Payne was a "gentle giant" in his early 50s with flaming red hair and broad shoulders.

An undated family photo shows Howard
Family Photo / AP
Howard "Boone" Payne

"He would go out of his way to help someone," said his brother-in-law, Terry Wright of Roanoke, Va. "He loved to have fun. He was quiet and loved his family."

Payne began working as a coal miner shortly after graduating high school in 1977. He had worked for Massey Energy for eight to 10 years. Massey told Payne's wife, Debra, about his death at 2 a.m. Tuesday, Wright said.

Wright said Payne never expressed any fears about his profession. As a former coal miner, himself, Wright understands why.

"You know any mistake may be the last day of your life. You know any day you work may be your last. But you just can't think about that. You can't stay in mining and think about that."

| Dillard Earl Persinger, 32

His life outside of work was devoted to his wife, Heidi, and two sons, 2-year-old James and 8-year-old Devin.

"He loved his family," said Janet Reed, one of Persinger's two sisters. "It was his life. It's what he did on his days off. They'd go up and visit (relatives). He'd take them out to eat."

Persinger was a country music fan who especially loved listening to Hank Williams Jr. and George Jones.


"He made you laugh no matter what," Reed said.

| Joel R. Price, 55

Joel R. "Jody" Price, 55, of Beckley was the second youngest of 14 children...


"What he was most known for was his smile," [...]"He was a very compassionate individual who was always willing to help anybody else. He was a family man who cared for his children."

| Deward Scott, 58

Deward Scott met his wife, Crissie, when she was his karate student. The pair loved to go hunting together -- Deward Scott taught her to bow hunt when they first met nearly 20 years ago, she said.

They've been together ever since, usually enjoying the outdoors while hiking, hunting, fishing or gardening. The 58-year-old Montcoal resident had been a miner for 21 years and loved his job. He also was kind and outgoing, Crissie Scott said.

"He was a Christian man who loved to help people," Crissie Scott said, her voice choking. "He's one of those people that once you met him, you wouldn't forget him."

| Gary Quarles, 33

Gary Quarles' life was consumed by his wife and two children.

An undated family photo shows Gary Quarles who died in the  explosion at Massey Energy's Upper Big Branch Coal Mine in West  Virginia.
Family Photo / AP
Gary Quarles

The 33-year-old from Naoma, W.Va., took trips every summer to Myrtle Beach, S.C., with the kids, ages 9 and 11, as well as his wife. The family often went fishing along the New River there.

"He liked to hunt and spend time with his kids," Janice Quarles said. "That was about it. That's all he did."

He liked to hunt everything from raccoons and deer to wild boar, and he had wanted to stay home from work Monday because his children were still on Easter break, she said.

Janice Quarles said her husband was a quiet, laid-back man nicknamed "Spanky." She was told of his death by a Massey official.

Gary Quarles started coal mining when he was 18. He was among those finishing a 10.5-hour shift when the explosion happened, his wife said.

| Grover Dale Skeens, 57

Grover Skeens found religion later in life and was involved in that extensively, said his brother, Gary Skeens of Dunbar.

Grover Skeens, 57, of Montcoal, was one of five siblings ...[...]

Skeens joined the Marines after the Vietnam War before becoming a coal miner like his brother Gary.

"Mostly, his passion was work," Massey said. "He started out in the coal mines at an early age. He's been working there for almost 30 years."

About 15 years ago Skeens was baptized and has had a strong church involvement ever since.

| Benny Willingham, 61

An undated family photo shows Benny Willingham who died in the  explosion at Massey Energy's Upper Big Branch Coal Mine in West  Virginia.
Benny Willingham, right, with family
For Benny Willingham, retirement was just five weeks away.

The 61-year-old from Corinne, W.Va., had been a coal miner for 30 years and spent the last 17 working for Massey, said his sister-in-law, Sheila Prillaman. Willingham and his wife were supposed to go on a cruise next month to the Virgin Islands.

"Benny was the type -- he probably wouldn't have stayed retired long," Prillaman said. "He wasn't much of a homebody."
| Ricky Workman, 50

Ricky Workman had an affection for wheels.

... The 50-year-old Colcord resident loved his Harley-Davidson and in the summer drove miniature race cars, ...[...] He and his wife, Annette, have three daughters and seven grandchildren.


WV Angel said...

I thank you for honoring these 29 West Virginian coal miners, who lost thier lives in the Upper Big Branch Mine.

ivetret said...

These families deserve our support during thier sudden tragedy. May they rest in peace.