WYOMING COUNTY, WV (WVNS) — One community in Wyoming County spent the Mountain State’s birthday celebrating the men and women who made the state what it is today.
Coal mining plays a major role in the City of Mullens’s history and the Mountain State itself. So as the city of Mullens celebrated the state’s birthday, they felt they could not do so without also celebrating the coal miners.
City leaders partnered with the County’s Black Lung associations to put together dedication ceremonies for two new statues at their Coal Miners Memorial.
Sam Petsonk is a lawyer who focuses on black lung cases and volunteers with the county’s association. He believes the work coal miners and the state of West Virginia did to impact the rights of working people across the world does not get enough credit, and he hopes this memorial can start to change that.
“This memorial represents not only the labor and the blood and disease that miners have borne in the mines but also the achievements miners in Wyoming County have won by fighting for themselves,” said Petsonk.
One statue stands seven feet tall and accompanies the other pre-existing male statue. The other statue is one of a kind: depicting a female miner. While the presence of women in the mining workforce is not common knowledge, the presence of the statue means everything to the women it represents.
“One of the most important things in my whole life, to tell you the truth. to be honored and to have friends like I’ve got because it has been a long ride to get this for us,” said Brenda Ellis who worked with U.S Steel mining for 24 years.
Ellis is the Vice president of the county’s black lung association. Alongside Judy Riffe, she worked closely to bring the two statues to the city. For that reason, Riffe lovingly refers to the female statue as Brenda and she calls the middle statue by her late husband’s name.
She sees their faces whenever she drives by and hopes the statues can do the same for all who come across them.
“They’ve probably got their dad or their brother, grandpa maybe a sister who has worked in the mines and they can call them that,” said Riffe.