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Fallen steel workers remembered; AEIF pays tribute to 98 from AK, Armco

By Craig J. Heimbuch, Journal Staff Writer, E-mail:

For the 12th year, candles were lit Monday at AEIF headquarters to remember those Armco and AK Steel workers who died on the job.

Red, white and purple carnations adorned linen-covered tables in the meeting room of the Crawford Street home of the Armco Employees Independent Federation.

A table was covered in 98 white candles, one for each worker who has died, by the union’s count, in or after on-the-job accidents. The AEIF represents more than 3,000 workers at AK’s Middletown Works.

The remembrance went from Joseph Berry, who died Nov. 12, 1903, to Rick Felton, a contractor who died Dec. 5, 1996.

Some 35 people were gathered to honor each individual, AEIF Safety Chairman Rick Combs said. Also remembered were Cincinnati firefighter Oscar Armstrong III, who died in action March 20, and the 164 servicemen and women who lost their lives since that date in Operation Iraqi Freedom.

“We search for an appropriate way to honor them,” Combs said, adding that along with remembrance, it was important to offer compassion for those left behind.

“It is one thing to remember them,” said Pastor Shawn Watson, of Northside Baptist Church in Lebanon. “It’s another thing to pay tribute to them ... Be humble in remembering them.”

There are 86 names of Armco and AK employees on a plaque hung in the room and 12 more of contractors who died while working in Middletown. Ed Reynolds, business agent of the Pipefitters and Mechanical Equipment Services, Local 392, said he will never forget when the names of three of his friends found places on the plaque.

“April 20, 1994, is a day I’ll never forget,” Reynolds said. “I remember where I was Nov. 22, 1963, when (President John F.) Kennedy was killed, and I remember where I was that day.

Reynolds said AK and other companies have made great strides in safety.

“Hopefully,” he said, before reading names of 12 contractors, “these will be the only candles we ever have to light.”

Their names were read at a slow, uneven cadence, like a funeral march, as candles were lit and a single chime sounded for each.

While Middletown firefighter Tommy Allen played taps on a trumpet outside the union hall’s front door, some in attendance bowed their heads in prayer; others closed their eyes; and still others adopted a thoughtful stare.

Published 04.29.03



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