Coal Miner's Son Remembers 'A Hard, Dirty Job' Gene Kendzior grew up in a mining town in West Virginia. In 1967, his father died in an accident like the one that killed more than two dozen miners this week. Kendzior and his daughter, Jennifer, discuss his father's life and work.
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Coal Miner's Son Remembers 'A Hard, Dirty Job'

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Coal Miner's Son Remembers 'A Hard, Dirty Job'

Coal Miner's Son Remembers 'A Hard, Dirty Job'

Coal Miner's Son Remembers 'A Hard, Dirty Job'

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  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/125737237/125754190" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
  • Transcript

Gene Kendzior spoke with his daughter, Jennifer, about his father's life — and death — in coal mines at StoryCorps in West Virginia. StoryCorps hide caption

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StoryCorps

Gene Kendzior spoke with his daughter, Jennifer, about his father's life — and death — in coal mines at StoryCorps in West Virginia.

StoryCorps

Gene Kendzior grew up in a mining town in West Virginia. In 1967, his father died in an accident like the one that killed more than two dozen miners this week. Kendzior and his daughter, Jennifer, recently discussed his father's life and work.

Walter Kendzior, Gene's father, worked in a coal mine in Marion County, W. Va., close to Bingamon. That's about 190 miles northeast of the recent tragedy in Montcoal. Walter Kendzior died on the job, when the ceiling of the tunnel he was working in collapsed.

The mine was the town's main industry. "Most of the people went right from high school to the coal mine," Gene says.

"It was a hard, dirty job. And everyone who worked there suffered from it."

Injuries were common, and Gene's father was no exception: "My dad had his foot run over in a mine by a car, and he lost his little toe."

Walter once took his son to the mines.

"The tunnel was probably 15 feet wide, and the walls were all covered with a gray rock dust," he said.

"They spray it on the walls to keep the coal dust from getting into the air. If coal dust gets into the air and there's any kind of a spark, that's where the explosions come from — one of the sources. The other one is methane gas, which they would sometimes run into."

Jennifer, 37, asks her dad what Walter Kendzior was like — "I never heard much about him," she says.

"He was very quiet and unassuming. He didn't try to be the center of anything," says Gene, who's 69 now. "He was someone who'd work in the coal mines all day long, and then come home, and after supper, go back outside and work two or three more hours in the evening."

Still, even as his father worked long, hard hours in the coal mine, Gene says, "I never heard him ever say a word about, boy he really felt tired, or anything. Nothing like that.

"But no matter how tired he might have been, he always had the time to go out in the front yard, and throw the baseball back and forth."

Looking back on what his dad went through, Gene says, "It was a very hard life for him, I'm sure it was.

"And to think that as I sit here, I'm older than he was when he died. And just think how nice it would be to have your father to talk to. That ... that was a great loss."

Produced for Morning Edition by Vanara Taing and Lily Percy. The senior producer for StoryCorps is Michael Garofalo.