Looking for Financial Assistance For the Steelworker Nutcracker

Photos by Dave Gossett Retired members of the United Steelworkers Local 1190 stand on the front steps of their union hall on South Third Street for a conversation about their days in the steel industry and a new steelworker nutcracker at the Historic Fort Steuben Park. On hand were, front, from left, Carmen DeStefano and Blaine Westfall; second row, Larry Rennie and Joe Mannarino; and third row, Paul Swicker, John Dugan and Carl Wiseman.

These are the men who worked in the coke plant, the basic oxygen furnace, the blast furnaces, the railroad and the finishing mills of the sprawling Wheeling-Pittsburgh Steel Corp. to make steel for customers throughout the world.

They worked different shifts in the heat of the workplace or the cold winter weather, always ready to accept an extra turn to help pay for a child’s tuition or that special Christmas present.

The men are retired now — some by choice, others when their steel mill finally shut down for good in 2012. But they are still members of the steelworker brotherhood and they are asking for help to keep the steelworker legacy alive in Steubenville.

“I saw how popular the Nutcracker Village at the Historic Fort Steuben was last year and how many different professions were represented by the nutcrackers. So I contacted the Nelson family and applied to have a steelworker nutcracker created to honor our forefathers who came to the United States with very little and got a job in the steel mill. I want to carry on the tradition that ended here in 2012,” explained Carmen DeStefano of Steubenville.

DeStefano has issued a plea to all active and retired steelworkers to donate to the perpetual maintenance of the steelworker nutcracker.

“My family paid to have this one created. But we need $1,700 for the ongoing maintenance and storage of the steelworker nutcracker. If everyone who ever worked in a steel mill would donate a few dollars we will quickly meet our goal. We have an account set up at the Valley One Credit Union in Steubenville. People can drop off their donations or send them to the credit union and designate the money for the steelworker nutcracker,” DeStefano said.

He and several other retired steelworkers gathered on a recent morning in front of the former United Steelworkers Local 1190 union hall on South Third Street to reminisce about their careers in the steel mill.

“I came up here from the Grafton, West Virginia, to visit my sister. Her husband took me down to the mill one morning to get a job application. I had a physical that afternoon and started the next day on afternoon turn,” recalled Carl Wiseman, a longtime Steubenville resident. “That was when the mill was hiring 200 people a day. Times were good in the late 1960s. The money was good and I spent 43 years working in the mill.”

Paul Swicker started in the Cold Strip Department in Follansbee in 1972.

“I lived in Richmond and my neighbor got me an application for the mill. I like the steelworker nutcracker. It looks a lot like Carmen when he was younger,” quipped Swicker.

All of the retired steelworkers gathered in front of the now empty union hall have visited the nutcracker steelworker.

“I think the steelworker nutcracker is a good thing. The nutcracker reminds people of what we once had. I like it a lot,” said Joe Mannarino, who spent his mill career in the blast furnace department. “I started at the bottom job and worked my way up through the jobs over the years,” he said.

“I am hoping we get the donations to establish the maintenance and storage fund for the steelworker nutcracker. It is part of our local history and should always have a place in the Nutcracker Village,” DeStefano added.