By Melanie Mizenko
April 7, 2017 - It was a powerful afternoon for families of late miners as Wilkes-Barre, PA's King’s College unveiled Thursday the first batch of 873 names on its Miners Memorial Wall of Honor on Public Square.
Michael Grebeck, of Laflin, joined grandparents Stanley and RoseMary Grebeck for the ceremony. The name of Michael’s great-grandfather and Stanley’s father — also Stanley — was etched on the memorial.
“It was a very tough job,” RoseMary said, noting miners were proud of their service. “They went in in the dark and came out in the dark.”
Stanley, visibly touched by having his father’s name on the wall, said he remembers meeting his dad outside the No. 7 Mine in the Port Griffith section of Jenkins Township.
“It means a lot that he’s on this wall,” Stanley said.
“This is a spark to me to be as good as he (Stanley) was,” added Michael, 15.
The memorial, an open-air tribute to the coal miners, was officially dedicated in November 2014. Now, names inscribed in bronze flank the black granite middle, which showcases a coal miner’s face.
The words etched below that face: “Those years rush back, like beating wings, long years of strife, when coal was king.”
Nearly 300 people sat under tents on the Square during a short dedication service.
“It’s heartwarming to see how many people came out,” John Loyack, King’s vice president for business affairs, said as he talked about how the memorial came to be. Loyack talked about Jim Burke, who died in 2015, and how he was the visionary behind the wall.
The college, formerly called The College of Christ the King, was founded in 1946 for miners.
“King’s was the place to teach miners, their sons … and eventually granddaughters,” Loyack said.
Robert Wolensky, a Swoyersville native, who has written books about the mining industry and miners in Pennsylvania, said those in attendance were the “beneficiaries of their legacy,” which includes powering the United States’ Industrial Revolution.
Wolensky said hard coal, or anthracite, is mined only a few places in the world, including northeastern Pennsylvania. Meanwhile, soft coal, or bituminous coal, was mined in 39 states, including west of the Allegheny River.
“We were so close to the Eastern seaboard,” Wolensky said about why anthracite powered the revolution. “They couldn’t wait for the bituminous.”
Wolensky said the memorial is a way for the college and those who visit to keep an “attitude of gratitude” for the miners and their “coal cracker culture.”