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Sago victim leaves family sweet memories

One of the Sago miners that you haven’t heard much about, said his cousin Jan Harris, is Jack Weaver.

“The thing I thought was so beautiful about him,” Harris said in a telephone interview from her home in Ohio, “was when his dad, Duke, died, his mom, Evelyn, came to stay with him. He built a house and made a special room for her. Last time we were there, he showed us that house.”

His mother died shortly thereafter. But Harris still has her favorite photograph of Evelyn and Jack together.

Harris brings her family back as often as she can to Junior, the community outside Philippi where Harris’ parents lived before her father took a job in Ohio, and which Weaver, 51, still called home.

“Jack just welcomed us,” Harris said. “He said, ‘You’re all family.’”

Families stay close in the Barbour County community, Harris said. Her uncle remembers teaching Jack in school. When Harris’ mother died in 1993, Jack Weaver’s father was her pallbearer. Weaver’s mother took her to “show me the farmhouse my mother was born in,” she said. “There were people living there, but they didn’t mind.

“It’s the kind of community where you can stop and ask anyone, ‘Where is Evelyn and Duke Weaver’s house?’ and they know. We live in a city, so my kids think that is so cool.”

Harris’ daughter, a first-grader, made a card for the miners’ families.

“She made a picture of a coal car going in a mine with a cross on it — so it could take them out and take them to heaven,” Harris said. “When I saw that, I cried.”

The other children in the class made cards too, and Harris plans to bring them to her cousin’s funeral.

“I went to Ohio State, and all through college I was kind of embarrassed when people would say bad things about West Virginia,” she said. “I’m embarrassed about that now. Now that I’ve gotten older and had kids, I’m proud of West Virginia. They’re the hardest-working people, people who have faith in God and care about their family.”

Harris and Weaver were related through Harris’ grandfather, Carl Sinsel. “My grandfather was a coal miner,” Harris said. “He died of black lung.

“He was born in 1910, so he would have been mining in the ’30s and ’40s.” She recalled the stories of her grandfather mining day after day in waist-high water. Besides black lung, “he had terrible problems with his feet, and arthritis.”

Knowing the hardships that mining families go through, Harris said she was interested to see the amount of money that New York billionaire Wilbur Ross, head of the company that owns the Sago mine, put into a fund for the miners who died.

“Two million dollars,” to be shared among all of the families, Harris said. “I thought that seemed really ... odd.”

To contact staff writer Tara Tuckwiller, use e-mail or call 348-5189.


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