The last Asarco Tacoma employee is on the way out the door. It marks the end of an era that once saw the company as the largest employer in the county. The smelter closed its doors in 1985, but a few employees remained doing environmental work. I was had the privilege of being one of those last few. I said my goodbyes last month ~ bittersweet and with tears.
Today was the annual dinner for former Asarco Tacoma employees. At my first dinner 16 years ago there were almost 200 attendees. There were less than 38 today. As I was preparing to go, I thought of how much I enjoy catching up with old friends at these dinners ~ only to realize how many were no longer living. As the sound of the smelter whistle was played once again after reading the names of this year's deceased, I was struck with what a treasure we have lost.
Not everyone appreciates what these hard working people gave to this community. Smelter work is dirty, sweaty and real. It paid well enough put generations of kids through college, providing opportunities that their parents only dreamed of. The medical clinic treated the whole family for free ~ Doctor Pinto and Nurse Johnny were legends. It was a big family, with pride in producing the copper vital to America and building strong connections.
The dinner tonight held a special treat. A 93-year old gentleman played his guitar while a lovely lady sang a few old songs. Everyone joined in the chorus of Home On The Range and Amazing Grace. It was a brief glimpse into a different era, where entertainment was simple and folks enjoyed just being together.
As I left I was struck with the fact that my granddaughter will never know the details of this generation. She'll read the history books, maybe listen to some of my stories ~ but she won't be as close to those who actually lived out this history. I have been lucky to work with so many great men and women. It has been a privilege to touch history through these friends. An era comes to a close ~ one that gave us a strong foundation and built a positive future. May we remember and appreciate...