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Inaugural tree planting honors workers killed on the job

A Maple tree will mark the spot where community members gathered Wednesday to remember workers who have died on the job. The planting in Bear Creek Park marked Superior's first Workers Memorial Day ceremony since the day was instituted in 1989. T...

Tree Planting
Superior City Councilors Dan Olson and Warren Bender talk during a Worker's Memorial Day tree planting ceremony Wednesday morning at Bear Creek Park in Superior. (Jed Carlson/jcarlson@superiortelegram.com)

A Maple tree will mark the spot where community members gathered Wednesday to remember workers who have died on the job. The planting in Bear Creek Park marked Superior's first Workers Memorial Day ceremony since the day was instituted in 1989. This year, the event also serves as the 40th anniversary of the Occupational Safety and Health Administration.

Workers Memorial Day will always be necessary, said Superior City Councilor Dan Olson, who spearheaded efforts to hold the Superior event.

"I wake up every morning knowing I'm going to work and I assume I'm come home," he said. "Sometimes that doesn't happen."

Worker Memorial Day serves as a time to remember the tens of thousands of American workers who have been hurt or killed by workplace injuries and occupational diseases and as a rededication to improving safety and health in the workplace. Although annual ceremonies have taken place in Duluth for 20 years, this was Superior's first.

A wide spectrum of the community gathered for the planting. Chancellor Julius Erlenbach from the University of Wisconsin-Superior stood near Dave Minor, president and CEO of the Superior-Douglas County Chamber of Commerce. Andy Lisak, director of the Development Association stopped by, as did family members of fallen soldiers and workers. Union members also gathered for the memorial.

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"For all of you here who have felt some pain, felt some loss," Olson said. "You will see this tree is planted here for a reason."

The Maple will grow and spread its leaves for Steve Arnovich, who lost his life working on the Enbridge pipeline in November of 2007. It will shade children in memory of four men who died in an industrial accident that same month - brothers Scott and Joseph Kimmes III, Harold "Tim" Olsen and Paul Cossalter. The tree will stand testament to the local soldiers who died serving their country, including Lance Cpl. Adam VanAlstine, Sgt. Jeremy Vrooman, Sgt. 1st Class Matthew Pionk and Cpl. Kenneth Cross. The tree honors Chippewa County Sheriff's Deputy Jason Zunker, who was fatally injured while directing traffic in January of 2008, and the crew of the Edmund Fitzgerald.

The newly-planted Maple on the edge of the city also represents 29 West Virginia coal miners who died in a recent mine explosion and Villas County Sheriff's Deputy Kory Dahlvig, who was killed in a car crash Sunday while responding to a call.

"The unfortunate thing is every year there will be a reason for us to plant a tree," Olson said. He said the annual plantings will take place in a different council district every year, eventually providing a living Workers Day Memorial for every community in Superior.

Related Topics: SUPERIOR
Maria Lockwood covers news in Douglas County, Wisconsin, for the Superior Telegram.
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