STEUBENVILLE - The tears started rolling down Sandy Day's cheeks as she read the short biographies of the 19 men who had worked at the Wheeling Steel plant and left to serve in the military during World War II.
"These men sacrificed their lives while serving in the service of their country. I am glad we now have this plaque permanently mounted across from the main library and on the hillside overlooking the steel mill. But I didn't want to just read a list of names. So I started researching the men whose names are on this plaque to give a little history of who they are," explained Day, the research librarian at the Schiappa branch of the Public Library of Steubenville and Jefferson County.
That's when the tears started as Day shared what she found about each man.
"Willard R. Stone Jr. was 29 when he was wounded during the invasion of Sicily. He later returned to his unit and was killed in action in Germany. The last letter he wrote home talked about how he had been recommended for a battlefield commission," recited Day.
Stone's surviving sisters, Zeina Nelson of East Springfield and Elsie Call of Toronto, said they were pleased with the plaque as they sat in the front seats at the dedication ceremony Wednesday morning.
Georgianne Weiser, the daughter of George J. Gabsella Jr., sat in a nearby seat.
"I never knew my birth father. He and my mother were in South Carolina for his flight training. My mother told him she was pregnant and he was killed in a plane crash the next day. My mom said the Army was training so many pilots at the time, there were a number of men killed during the training," said Weiser.
Also sitting in the front row of seats were Harry, Jack and June Noble.
The three siblings remembered their father, Carl Noble, who was drafted at the age of 35 in March 1944.
"Wheeling Steel tried to block him from going to the Army because he had five children and was working on the railroad in the mill. But he had to go and he was killed somewhere in Italy in February of 1945," related June Noble.
"Before he left he told my mom to keep us kiddies together if something happened to him. And when she was left with five young children she kept us together in our home on Lincoln Avenue," added June Noble.
The move to find a permanent home for the plaque started three months ago when Raymond-Lynn Boothe, the author of "Fire on the Water: A New History of the Wheeling Steel Corporation" saw a bronze plaque in a dark corner of an office in the former LaBelle Steel building.
"I knew the plaque would end up being scrapped, so I asked Bud Smith of the steel company to help me move it to the library until we could find a home for it," said Boothe.
"That is when I answered a knock at our garage doors and saw four men who said they had a delivery for us. It took all of them to carry it into my office and that is where it stayed until we had it mounted in this green space across from the library," added Alan Hall, library director.
"It seems fitting it should have a home here overlooking the steel mill," Hall remarked.
Hall asked Joseph "Slugs" Smarrella for help, and the retired Steelworker enlisted the help of the local Laborers' Union and Carpenters Union.
"Everyone asked what they could do to help. It was a pleasure to help with this project. Our veterans gave us the freedom to stand here today," said Smarrella.
Boothe also used the ceremony to urge the steelworker community "to keep your chins up and support those people who are trying to keep the steel industry alive in the valley."
"This is a time of community effort. This beautiful valley produced jobs for everyone here for more than 120 years. The last few years we have been victims of outside forces and we have ended up with people who really don't care about the people or the mills. But we must have faith and hope," said Boothe.
"Greed and money have taken our jobs and our way of life. If we have to go out on our own then it has to be done," Boothe said.
Smarrella said donations to the plaque project can be mailed to Hall's attention at the Public Library of Steubenville and Jefferson County, 407 S. Fourth St., Steubenville, OH 43952.
"We would like to add a walkway on the grounds around the plaque and create a small park here in the future," said Smarrella.