By Rebecca Zemencik, Managing Editor • email@example.com
HEGINS – He was only 26 years old working in his dad’s coal mine in Donaldson and he can remember the day like it was yesterday.
David A. Lucas, Hegins, organizer of the Bootlegger’s 33rd Annual Independent Anthracite Coal Miner’s Picnic, slated for Saturday, Aug. 12, will pay tribute to the nine miners who perished and the lone survivor of the Porter Tunnel Mine disaster 40 years ago.
This year’s commemorative mug will feature the names, ages, and hometowns of the miners who died and the one who survived.
David A. worked at the Porter Tunnel Mine years before the disaster.
“I worked at the Porter Tunnel just shy of a year,” said David A. “I went off in the Army just shy of my one year anniversary. At that time already we were tapping water from the Brookside Colliery. It was me and Dean Updegrave of Tower City and Hutch Miller from Klingerstown. I trusted my life with those men. I was the youngest of us. At that time I was 19 years old. A million things go through your mind when you hit water. That water had a stench that could have taken your breath away. One thing I’m gonna tell you about water – you can never outrun water and you can never hide from water. It will get you.”
David A. says he can remember the day of the disaster like it was yesterday, as he recalled the moment while sitting on his front porch Friday afternoon.
“I was 26 years old and by that time I was working in a mine with my brothers that my dad, Ray A. ‘Checky’ Lucas and partners owned in Donaldson,” said David A. “As soon as we got the news we shutdown and drove directly to Porter Tunnel. We had our helmets, light and boots and were ready to go in and offer support in anyway we could. We never had to go in, there were enough there helping already but we stayed for a couple days to offer our support and by the third day we were back working at our mine. I knew every one of the men who were killed. Some of them were going to come and work at our mine, but they stayed at the tunnel so they could have health insurance for their kids. Our mine was paying $2 more a day, but we didn’t offer health insurance.”
David A. spoke with Beth Harman who was the organizer in getting a memorial erected this year at the site of the Porter Tunnel Mine to commemorate the men who lost their lives. Beth’s father, Dennis Morgan, 30, of Valley View, was one of the miners who lost their life. Beth helped supply the names and information to David A. to be placed on the mug and helped him to design it.
“This is probably one of the best mugs we’ve ever had made,” said Lucas.
Featured on the mug, in addition to Dennis Morgan will be the following names: Gary Lee Klinger, 19, of Hegins; Philip Sabatino, 50, of Hegins; Ralph Renninger, 40, of Donaldson; Donald Shoffler, 40, of Gordon; Ronald Herb, 32, of Valley View; John Moyer, 44, of Ashland; Tim Grose, 19, of Ashland; Mark Kroh, 48, of Goodspring; and survivor Ronald Adley, 37, of Tower City, who was rescued more than five days later.
Also featured will be a photo of Stu Richards and Tommy Symons, the Breaker Boys, who have provided musical entertainment at the picnic for several years.
The commemorative mug can be purchased for $8 and can be pre-ordered through David A. by calling 570-682-9140 before July 17. A limited amount of mugs will be available at the picnic. T-shirts and hats will also be available for sale at the picnic.
The picnic will begin at noon in the Hegins Park. At 3:30 p.m. David A. has asked Harman to read the names and information of the Porter Tunnel Miners aloud to those in attendance. She will also read the names of local miners who passed away just this year: Normy Klinger, Ira “Ike” Kintzel, Fritz Shingara, Clayton “Blapper” Shade, Carl Wetzeland Carl Wetzel.
Every year David A. also remembers verbally the following: Robin “Slob” Lucas, John Kroh, David “Stu” Himmelberger, Dale Reightler, Bob and Kenny Wolfgang and David A.’s father, Ray A. “Checky” Lucas.
A “Miner’s Prayer,” written by Symons, will be read prior the hot meal being served at 4 p.m.
A donation of $20 will include admission to the picnic, all food and entertainment. Musical entertainment will be provided by DJ Gold Dust, The Breaker Boys and Red Halo. Children age 18 and under are admitted free.
Those attending will also have the opportunity to purchase raffle tickets for a miners statue, five to seven tons of coal, a hand-crafted drump truck and two lottery baskets. Those items will be chanced off at 6 p.m.