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Thu., Sep. 3
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Over Coffee


IRONWORKERS HONORED – Without the skilled ironworkers there would be no hospitals, no stadiums, no bridges – like the Verrazano in New York City or the George Washington Bridge and no World Trade Center. Without the ironworkers, who walk the beams midair, our cities, our entire world, would look entirely different. What respect I have for each ironworker who builds buildings, constructs bridges and makes our lives so much easier.

Saturday ironworkers from throughout the United States and Canada gathered at the Akwesasne Mohawk Casino and celebrated their profession while paying tribute to the seven who passed away during the last year.

I had prior commitments on Saturday and regretfully was unable to attend the 11th Annual Ironworkers’ Festival. Monday I stopped to visit with William J. (Bill) Sears and I learned what a marvelous festival it was on Saturday.

Billy explained the Akwesasne Mohawk Casino sponsors Local 440 Ironworkers, who host the event. Mike Swamp and Billy Sears worked as coordinators for the Festival with Ashley Thompson and Darlene Rourke working to coordinate the event.

Tribute is always paid to each local ironworker who has passed away during the year. “We always say good-by,” Billy Sears said. Those honored this year were: Terry Bigtree, Barney Cole, Frank Cook, Joe Johnson, John Oakes, Richard (Dick) Peters and Reginald White.

“It was a good day,” Billy told me on Monday. As we visited I asked Billy why the ironworkers have held the Festival for now over a decade. Billy told me the Festival “gives Mr. and Mrs. America an idea what we do (as ironworkers) … it gives people who have no idea,” about how a building is constructed what is involved in putting a building together. It also shows others ironworking “is not an easy life style.”

During the Festival there is a rivet toss, a bolt toss, rod tying and a spud throw, Billy explained. There are also tests on a rope and a beam walk. The main attraction is the column climb. Billy told me any paid union member can participate in this. There was even an 81-year-old gentleman from Chicago who entered this event. The column is three stories tall or 35 feet, Billy said, as he told me the quickest ironworker to climb that column was a gentleman from Philadelphia who “went up in 5.5 seconds!” Unbelievable!

I learned on Monday there is a slight complication to the Column Climb (for me just looking up the column is difficult enough let alone attempting to walk straight up the side of it!). Billy adds his special touch to this event by taking his 10-pound sledge hammer and as the climber ascends he hits the column, to “simulate the wind!”

I think I have such great admiration for the ironworkers and their amazing work because this columnist has difficulty on the third step of a three-step step stool. Ask the builder in our home about my attempt to help put a rafter in place when he was building our one-story home. Not a good idea! Just looking at the work Billy has accomplished in photographs makes the palms of my hands begin to perspire! Monday was no different – there were amazing photographs to look at – of the World Trade Center construction with Billy at the top – and no safety nets at all!!

The Festival was an international event with ironworkers attending from both the United States and Canada. People attended, Billy said, from Toronto, Ontario, Windsor, Ontario and Montreal, Quebec. They also attended from Caughnawaga, Detroit, Boston, Philadelphia, Florida and the west coast.

Billy encourages everyone to make a note on their calendar for next year’s Ironworkers’ Festival. “Everybody is welcome,” he said, adding “Everybody who comes will have a good time.” The event will be held rain or shine, as Billy explained “Ironworkers won’t work in the rain, but we’ll play in the rain!”

My heartfelt thanks to each ironworker (and to their families) who travel to build this world one beam at a time. When we visit New York City with our sons it is with great pride I look skyward knowing our neighbors and friends have worked diligently to construct the bridges we use and the skyline we enjoy. My thanks, too, to the Ironworkers of Union 440 and especially Billy Sears and Mike Swamp for organizing the Festival and sharing the work of the ironworkers with others.


WARMEST WISHES – Gloria Bombard of Massena celebrates her birthday today. What a beautiful woman Gloria is and how thoughtful. Her notes always touch my heart. I am sure her husband Jay and their many friends from throughout the North Country will join me today in wishing this extraordinary woman a very happy birthday.


TRAFFIC STOP – All summer a number of road crews and I am sure skilled electricians have worked to expand the roadway in front of the Casino near our Bombay home. We now have designated marked lanes for traffic flow. And we have stop lights – two stop lights with the capability of additional lighting it seems.

Monday as I began my trip to Massena I turned from State Route 95. I could see the stop lights as I began my Route 37 trek. Each light on this magnificent stop light was green, but traffic had come to a halt.

As I approached the tractor trailer truck in front of me, I smiled – the work of road crews and lighting technicians all indicated traffic should be progressing. There is one problem with this elaborate stop light system – the geese living nearby obviously have not been instructed in stop light etiquette. There was one family of geese progressing toward the Casino and one family from the Casino, And as they walked cautiously across the roadway all traffic stopped regardless of the two shining green lights above! Isn’t the North Country a marvelous place to live and watch the geese on a Monday morning? I certainly think so – it did make me smile!


THOUGHT FOR THE WEEK – A perfect summer day is when the sun is shining, the breeze is blowing, the birds are singing and the lawn mower is broken. James Dent

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