Dozens of people gathered at the National Day of Mourning plaque on Shrine Hill to remember those who have died or have been injured while on the job. Co-founder of the annual event, Barney McCaffrey, who passed away in January, was honoured during the ceremony. Photo Christine Hudder
WILNO – There was a chill in the air during the solemn eighth-annual National Day of Mourning ceremony held on Shrine Hill on the afternoon of April 28.
Dozens of people gathered at the memorial plaque to remember those that died or were injured on the job.
Diane Kutchkoskie, co-founder and secretary of the Day of Mourning committee, began the event by recognizing Barney McCaffrey, the co-founder of the local ceremony.
While he did not pass away from a workplace related incident, Barney had helped spearhead the event every year for the past seven years. He passed away in January.
His wife Pat McCaffrey laid a wreath at the memorial plaque that he had helped erect. A moment of silence was held before Barney’s close friend Ish Theilheimer was invited to say a few words about his friend.
Theilheimer began by explaining Barney “deeply cared about working people.”
It was something the two friends would talk about often; about the sacrifices that ordinary people make to put food on the table – and how little recognition these people get.
“When a policeman dies in the line of service, you might get thousands of policemen walking the streets to commemorate that, and that’s fine,” he said. “But when a group of agriculture workers die in a van…going to or from their job…or when sawmill workers blow up as they did this past week…there isn’t the same kind of recognition.”
Theilheimer said he, along with many others, are thinking about the late Barney and all that he has done to bring awareness to this issue.
“Barney was about recognizing the ordinary person, the ordinary working man,” he said.
Afterwards, Kutchkoskie explained that the National Day of Mourning is an annual day of remembrance for workers that have been killed or injured on the job in Canada.
“The aim of this day is to publicly renew the commitment to fight for the safety of the living, as well as mourn for those workers who have died,” she said.
April 28 was chosen for this observance because it coincides with the first comprehensive workers’ compensation act that was passed in the province of Ontario.
And although the annual event began in Canada, the Day of Mourning is now commemorated in more than 80 countries worldwide.
“It is as much a day to remember the dead as it is a call to protect the living,” Kutchkoskie said.
Father Wojciech Blach from St. Mary’s Catholic parish in Wilno was invited to say a few words. Blach grew up in Poland, where he was forced to march in support of the communist country.
Therefore, he said the Day of Mourning concept was new to him. But he did some research and discovered that the event is a way for people to come together in support of one another.
He quoted a sentence from the late Pope John Paul II, which talks about work and the dignity of work.
“Through work, we do not transform the world, we are transformed ourselves,” Fr. Blach said.
Following some scripture, he led a prayer for the workers that come in contact with dangerous chemicals, fast moving machines and/or work long hours.
The ceremony then had Reverend Susan Clifford say a few words.
She quoted scripture from the First Letter of John, which talks about love and laying ones life for another.
“When we risk loving another person, we are in a sense, laying down our life,” she said. “We lay down our defences; we risk being vulnerable or possibly being hurt. I don’t think anything hurts more deeply than love.”
Rev. Clifford said she had been thinking about the family members of those that have died or been injured in work-related accidents and deaths.
“I can’t pretend to understand what the hell is like that you are going through. But I was thinking that work is a form of sacrifice,” she said.
Story continues in the May 3rd issue of The Valley Gazette.