May 7, 2023 - Beneath the iconic statue of a coal miner, officials of the Schuylkill County Labor Council paused Saturday morning to remember eight members of the United Mine Workers of America.
At the Coal Miners' Statue, along Route 209 near the Turkey Hill Minit Market, about 40 union members and local dignitaries dedicated a moment of silence in honor of the late UMWA members.
"We're here to honor our predecessors," said Tony Boyle, council vice president. "And, all workers as well."
UMWA members honored were Thomas Madera, Lee Bergen, Eugene Capone, Dave Gerber, Harry Dorver, Fred Swanter, John Ruschak and Fred Cicero. All were members of UMWA Local 1686.
Tom Eltringham, Pottsville Rotary Club president, recalled the dedication to the monument in 1997.
"There was a large dedication from the Rotary Club in Minersville," he said. "Since then, the Minersville club disbanded and merged with Pottsville."
The land for the memorial garden was donated by the late John Walacavage, Eltringham recalled.
The Coal Miners' Statue was sculpted by Jim Ponter, a 1941 graduate of Pottsville High School. He was senior sculptor at the Franklin Mint in Media, Delaware County.
A brass marker on-site depicts the saga of a coal miner from breaker boy to miner and colliery worker.
"Twice a boy, they said, and once a man when you worked inside the mines," says the marker, which is dedicated to all miners. "Let us thank these miners, for they have touched our lives."
Anne Kurtek, council president, stressed the importance of safety regulations in the workplace.
"It's important," she said, "to keep our workers safe."
Liz Bettinger, a United Steelworkers official, spoke briefly to those in attendance.
Dignitaries included Schuylkill County Commissioner Gary J. Hess; District Attorney Michael A. O'Pake; Magisterial District Judge James K. Reiley; and Todd Zimmerman, chairman of the Schuylkill County Democratic Party.