Gratitude on Earth Day

As I ponder this Earth Day 2021, I couldn’t help but think about all the many remarkable colleagues, allies, OVEC members, OVEC staff, OVEC board members and community leaders who have died since 1992. This might seem like a downer of a blog, but truly, what better way to honor their lives than to express deep gratitude for them on this special day that has come to be known as Earth Day.

Each of them was imbued with dedication, commitment and love for West Virginia, its mountains, communities, neighbors and homeplaces. While OVEC has worked on various issues, each person on this list played a role and was involved in her/his special way in the efforts to end mountaintop removal strip mining of coal which is still devastating our mountain communities and wreaking havoc on the lives of residents living there.

The names are not listed in any particular order, and forgive me if I have overlooked someone—not my intention. Of course, there are a few on that list that I believe literally sacrificed their lives because of an overwhelming and abiding love of the earth as well as their love and concern for the people whose lives were being disrupted and destroyed by the egregious mining. While all are unique and special, I am especially grateful for life of Dianne Bady who saw potential in me that I couldn’t see in myself, asking me to join OVEC’s staff. Her belief in me set my life on an incredible trajectory—one that I could never have imagined.

And then, there was Laura Forman. For nine straight years, she and I worked closely together as colleagues and friends—sometimes on the same issue (like the proposed Apple Gove Pulp and Paper mill that OVEC staved off) and sometimes different issues. Laura led OVEC’s work to end mountaintop removal; she was tireless and focused. She had a small group of volunteers who I believed would have followed her into hell. She was a remarkable woman and role model. As personally shy as she was, an introvert at heart, she was outspoken and direct in meetings with regulators or politicians, modelling assertiveness. And for those who may not be familiar with OVEC history, Laura died at an MTR protest that she organized in Huntington, WV, on the sidewalk in front of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers offices—one day before she was to begin a 3 month sabbatical.

People like Judy Bonds and Larry Gibson had the same, seemingly tireless energy when it came to working for justice for their communities. Both of them, like Laura and Dianne, paid the ultimate price, pouring their lives into the work almost up to the day they departed earth, working for justice for those suffering under the heavy hand of the coal industry.

To me, every person on this list was a Godsend. Each of them was selfless with their time and talents. Our friend and colleague Dr. Mary Hufford, an ethnographer in academia, once made the statement that not only do people need our forested mountain communities for their lives and livelihoods, but our forested mountain communities also needed people like all the ones listed who have the dedication and commitment to help preserve and protect the forests, streams, the mountains, our earth, our Earth Mother.

Dearly departed, please know how deeply grateful I am to have ever shared your path. You touched my life and the lives of others in so many ways and our earth is a better place because you were here. 

  1. Laura Forman
  2. Dianne Bady
  3. Winnie Fox
  4. Nancy Taylor
  5. Elinore Taylor
  6. Dan Kash
  7. Tom Jones
  8. Patti Wallace
  9. Pauline Canterberry
  10. Ken Hechler
  11. Larry Gibson
  12. Lenny Kohm
  13. Si Galperin
  14. Don Garvin
  15. Ben Stout
  16. Judy Bonds
  17. Sue Daniels
  18. Joan Mulhern
  19. James Weekley
  20. Sibby Weekley
  21. Paul Nyden
  22. Janice Nease
  23. Doyle Coakley
  24. Rebecca Tarbotten
  25. Chris Hale
  26. Don Gasper
  27. John Taylor
  28. Bill Hughes
  29. April Pierson-Keating
  30. Bobby Nelson
  31. Pete Hill
  32. Peter Slavin
  33. Bob Gates
  34. Carlos Gore
  35. Frankie Mooney
  36. Lawrence and Quinnie Richmond
  37. Ronald Goodman
  38. Louise Dunlap
Updated: Apr 23, 2021 — 9:32 am

The Author

Janet Keating

2 Comments

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  1. So sad that all of these great people are gone.

  2. So sad that all of these great people are gone. Thank you so much Janet for writing this.

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