The residents of the small Boone County town of Whitesville are stumped as to who would steal items from a memorial dedicated to fallen coal miners.
Especially since many of those workers lived in, or were related to residents of the community. This is the second time since the beginning of summer that the site, located adjacent to the Whitesville Library was desecrated, and those involved with the project hope it will be the last. The thefts were especially heartbreaking due to the lingering heartbreak felt by residents all over the area after the April 5th loss of 29 miners after an explosion at Massey Energy’s Upper Big Branch Mine, located just a few miles up the road. Many of the fallen men were customers at nearby stores, and were family members of those families who reside in the small town situated on the Raleigh County line.
Organizers said the items stolen from the Whitesville Miners Memorial had a replacement value of $200 for those pilfered on Memorial Day and $800 for the more recent theft, but the loss, like that of the miners themselves, certainly cannot be measured in dollars.
All of the items placed in the Memorial came there as a heartfelt offering from someone, no matter how much they cost to produce. They started out dear to someone and became representative of the communal suffering that goes beyond the town or the state.
"The mining hat was my dad's and he had given it to my son," said Jennie Bennett of the Whitesville Miners Memorial Committee. "When the boots were stolen the first time, I asked my son if he wanted to get his hat so no one could take it. He thought for a minute and said 'No Momma, I want to leave it there for those men.'"
Jennie Bennett continued, "The mining light that was stolen belongs to my fathers friend and they worked in the mines together years ago ... so the light didn't belong to me, but it was dear to me and the others as well. We just want our things back and for the memorial items to be left alone. This is a place for healing and to show respect for these men. To remove any item is so disrespectful to the 29 UBB miners, their family and friends left to go on without them."
"This is our personal way of dealing with this, that is why we are all so dedicated to this park" states Peggy Tetoff. "We are coal miner daughter's and wives of coal miners. It gets you right in the heart! They will never be forgotten - that is why the park is so important!"
Police are investigating the case and if readers have seen anything that could be of assistance, they need to hear about it. Please do not hesitate to contact the Whitesville Police Dept. at (304) 854-2658, or the Boone County Sheriff’s Department at (304) 369-7340.