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Ceremony marks 100th anniversary of mine rescue

  • From left: County Commissioner George Halcovage; Dr. Eugene Laigon; Bob Vybrenner; Michael Habrischak; Micah Gursky, director of development for St. Luke's Hospital-Miners Campus; and the Rev. Jeremy Benack from Grace Community Church in Lansford…
    From left: County Commissioner George Halcovage; Dr. Eugene Laigon; Bob Vybrenner; Michael Habrischak; Micah Gursky, director of development for St. Luke's Hospital-Miners Campus; and the Rev. Jeremy Benack from Grace Community Church in Lansford. MIRNA P. GLEDHILL/SPECIAL TO THE TIMES NEWS
Published October 07. 2015 12:07PM

From Sept. 27 to Oct. 3, 1915, 11 miners were entombed in a mine when a large body of water broke into the mine and trapping the men.

Two miners were pulled out the second day, but nine remained in the dark, cold and muddy cave.

The incident happened at 11 a.m., and it was published in the newspaper the same day.

Rescuers frantically labored to free them for six days, and 5,000 people came as spectators to witness the miraculous rescue.

The commemoration ceremony and barbecue event held at the Coaldale Rod and Gun Inn on Saturday was organized by Michael Habrischak, an avid lover of coal region history, who presented an entertaining account and background of the tragic event to those in attendance.

The ceremony took place right in front of the Foster's Tunnel entrance, which was decorated with mums and a flag with 48 stars representing the 48 states of the time. The event showcased some old newspaper articles and memorabilia.

County Commissioner George Halcovage addressed the attendees, as did Bob Vybrenner, retired board president of Eckley State Museum, who was dressed in the miner's attire of the time.

Micah Gursky, director of development for St. Luke's Hospital-Miners Campus, gave a little history of the medical facility's relevance to the miners and workers in the area.

The Rev. Jeremy Benack of Grace Community Church in Lansford gave the prayer and benediction to present a flower crown to the memory of the deceased rescued miners.

The flower arrangement was brought in by Dr. Eugene Laigon, grandson of Joseph Laigon, the last Foster's Mine accident survivor, who died in 1967. Also participating in the occasion were sisters Jackie O'Malley and Cathy Schock (Murphey) who are the granddaughters of survivor Joseph "Peanuts" Murphey.

The cake for the commemoration had the iconic picture of the 11 miners from the Lehigh Navigation Coal Company who survived the entrapment, taken in front of the Coaldale Hospital six days after their rescue.

Their names are: John Bonner, Joseph "Peanuts" Murphey, Elmer Herring, George "Gint" Hollywood, Charles Matakus, John McAndrews, Dominick Holchech, William "Kasha Bill" Watkins, Peter Leunick, Joseph Laigon and Mike Gotarki.

Benack's prayer ended with these words: "Allow us to be people that love each other, people that help each other, and know each other, and we pray Lord that stories like this would be experiences that would be passed along so that we don't forget the importance of looking out for each other, and the importance of faith and hope in our everyday lives."

Habrischak brought the commemoration ceremony to conclusion with these encouraging words: "Well, if there's anything you take out of here it should be to never give up hope.

"Have memories, not regrets; do the things you want, now."

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