The Register-Herald, Beckley, West Virginia

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October 5, 2012

Coalfields awards get handed out during event

The 2012 Miners’ Celebration Thursday at Tamarack honored those associated with the industry and one well-known West Virginian.

Homer Hickam received the “Because of You” Spirit of the Coalfields award during the Celebration for his character, involvement, achievements and dedication to West Virginia and the mining industry. Dennis Jarvis II, economic development specialist with Cegas at Marshall University, presented Hickam with the award.

“The world knows and understands what that spirit from his words and his book ‘The Rocket Boys’ and the movie ‘October Sky,’” Jarvis said. “Mr. Hickam, you have inspired an untold number of people about your life in Coalwood and how the community, individuals and your family helped you and the other Rocket Boys excel in your future endeavors and achieve your dreams.”

Hickam told the crowd that he is “certainly appreciative” and “humbled” with the honor and by those involved with mining.

“I’m proud to be back in West Virginia and be with the other Rocket Boys,” Hickam said before he read comments he made during the 2006 Sago Mine Memorial.

Hickam said that it was when he began writing his books that he realized he grew up in a place that was “not so ordinary.” A place where people should have been afraid because every day the men went off to work in a  “deep, dark and dangerous coal mine.”

“We’re proud of who we are, we stand up for what we believe and keep our families together,” Hickam said. “We trust in God before we rely on ourselves.”

Hickam first entered a mine when he was in high school when his father wanted to show him where he worked. His father told him he senses when something is wrong and every day there is work to be done in order to ensure safety and coal production.

Hickam’s father told him: “Coal is the lifeblood of this country. If we fail, the country fails. There’s no men in the world like miners. They’re good. They’re strong men, the best there is. ... You will never know such good and strong men.”  

Other 2012 Miners’ Celebration “Because of You” recipients were Bill Alderman, Educator of the Year; John W. Brown III (posthumous), Equipment Innovation; Chuck Farmer, Equipment Innovation; Clarence Martin, Management Professional; Kenny Purdue, Safety Professional; Fred Powers, Community Involvement; Linda Raines Torre, Women in Mining; Page Read, Engineering; Art Wiesberg, Community Investment; and Upper Big Branch Mine Memorial Group, special presentation.

The National Coal Heritage Beacon of the Coalfields Nick J. Rahall II Award for Outstanding Achievement in Preserving Southern West Virginia’s Coal Heritage awards were presented to Renda Morris, James R. “Jimbo” Clendenen and Larry Moorman.

Coal Heritage Achievement Awards went to New River Gorge National River, Interpretation; Whipple Company Store, Historic Preservation; Mark Twain Alumni Association, Research and Documentation; and Mercer County Convention and Visitors Bureau, Marketing.

Earlier in the day participants attended seminars and lectures about post mining land use, surface mining, National Guard training related to mining, and the West Virginia Division of Culture and History presented information about restoring mining camps to preserve history and tell stories.

— E-mail: chiggins@register-herald.com

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