Monday's 10th anniversary of the Wilberg disaster was marked by a quiet memorial service and a procession of cars and pickup trucks.

Family members of the 27 miners who died in the Dec. 19, 1984, mine fire, along with co-workers and union leaders, have held the service each anniversary at a marker constructed within sight of the mine. "It's bigger this year because of the 10th anniversary," said Dave Campbell, union local president. "We've kept it kind of quiet over the years. It's mostly for the miners."Those attending met at the union hall in Orangeville as the sun was setting Monday and then drove along the road toward the mine, illuminating the dark canyon with only the emergency lights on their cars. Coal miner Lester Walls and his wife, Sally, led the procession. Their son, Lester Jr., was one of the miners who died in the fire.

Bitterness and lawsuits have been part of the tragedy. Wilberg has new owners since the fatal fire, and all animosity between management and miners is set aside for the memorial, Campbell said.

There were no speeches or rhetoric at the memorial. Campbell read the 27 names on the marker, which was lit only by candles inside small paper sacks that were arranged in front of the marker. The rest of the service was set aside for individual meditation and reflection.

Bitter cold kept the memorial short. But the group has gotten used to that as well over the years, Campbell said.

Richard Trumka, international president of the United Mine Workers of America, was in the crowd. He remembered hearing about the disaster shortly after being made president of the union. "I came here and met with all of these people when it happened," he said. "I made a promise to them that I would do everything that I could to make the mines safer and better for the miners," he said.

Whether the memorial service will continue beyond this year is a decision the union will not make until later next year, Campbell said.

But Walls has more definite plans. "We have to do it. If we don't, people will begin to forget," he said. "Next year, we will have the state flag, a union flag and the American flag displayed along with the cross on top of the marker."



Mine fire killed 27

Here is a list of the 26 men and one woman killed in the Dec. 19, 1984, fire in the Wilberg coal mine:

Price: David William Bocook, 41, mine manager; Ricci G. Camberlango, 26; Owen K. Curtis Jr., 31; James Hamlin, 37, company vice president of operations; Joel T. Nevitt, 33; and Alex Poulos, 33.

Castle Dale: James Bertuzzi, 37; Robert S. Christensen, 32; Randall P. Curry, 31; Brian Howard, 23; Barry Jacobs, 27; and Nannette M. Wheeler, 33.

Ferron: Gordon P. Conover, 24; Roger G. Ellis, 28; Lee Johansen, 35; Kelly Riddle, 28; Lynn Robinson, 28; and Ray Snow, 33. Huntington: Curtis Carter, 29; Vic Cingolani, 33; Gary Jennings, 33; John Waldoch, 22; and Lester Walls Jr., 23.

Orangeville: Phillip Bell, 28; and John Wilsey, 31.

Fillmore: Bert A. Bennett, 37.

East Carbon: Leroy Milton Hersh, 60.