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Coal country may get miners memorial

HARLAN — A small patch of grass along Ky. 2006, named the Coal Miners Memorial Highway, is slowly forming into a place of remembrance of fallen local coal miners. The widow of a coal miner killed in a 2005 mining accident is raising money to build a monument honoring those men by name.

Alongside the Coal Miners Memorial Highway in Cumberland, Stella Morris wants to place a tall, dark monument bearing the names and photos of local coal miners lost to mining accidents.

Morris' husband, Bud Morris, bled to death after his leg was severed by a shuttle car in D&B Mine No. 3 in Clover Lick. Not six months earlier, two Harlan County men died at Stillhouse Mine No. 1 a few miles away. Six months later, five more died at Cumberland-Darby Mine No. 1 at Holmes Mill.

Many of those men's names, along with their dates of birth and death, will be carved into the monument, along with the name of Morris' husband.

"It's a good way to honor all the men who have died," said Morris. And with many local miners passing by the planned location every workday, the memorial will be a way "to remind all the other miners to be safe," Morris said.

She began raising funds and collecting names for the monument last summer, hoping to complete the project by December. But the $7,000 needed for the monument has been harder to raise than she expected.

Selling everything from candles to doughnuts, and taking donations at her workplace at Tobacco Pouch, Morris raised a little more than $4,000 in six months.

Discouraging her even more, she says out of 31 businesses she sent letters to asking for help, only one responded with a $20 donation.

Fearing she wouldn't be able to raise enough money, Morris has considered altering plans for the 5-foot tall, 3-foot wide monument, cutting a foot from both dimensions.

"But once it's done, it's done, and there's no adding to it. And I want to make it as nice as I possibly can make it," said Morris.

Adding names to the memorial only with the permission of family members, Morris said she had anticipated receiving more names. They currently total 16.

She isn't asking for money for adding a name, but she is asking families to help pay an $80 fee if they want to add a photo to the memorial.