Monessen veteran honored for service to his community
Steve N. Major Sr. was recently honored for his service to his hometown of Monessen.
But service is nothing new for the World War II veteran who saw action in Northern Africa and Italy.
Major, past president and former board member of Mon Valley Sewage Authority, recently received the prestigious 2013 William H. Markus Award of Excellence from the Pennsylvania Municipal Authorities Association.
Major accepted the PMAA's highest annual award from a contingent of leaders from the organization's District Region 9 at a gathering at Ripepi Winery in Monongahela.
Major served as a sewage authority board member from 1981 through 2010. He was active on the statewide level, as a PMAA Region 9 director from 1991 through 1994 and assistant director from 1988 through 1001. Major became PMAA president in 2000.
Major began working as a plumber's apprentice while still in high school.
He left school to join the Army in early 1938, earning his GED while in the service.
After basic training at Edgewood Arsenal, he was assigned to the Sixth Field Artillery, a unit that used horse-drawn caissons to move field artillery.
He signed up to go to Panama, serving at Fort Amador. After two years there, he was discharged in late November 1941. But within days, Major went to Pittsburgh and enlisted in the Army Air Corps.
After spending time in the state of California, training new recruits on the basics of military life, Major was shipped aboard the Queen Mary on Sept. 5, 1942, to England.
Major's unit participated in the invasion of North Africa at Oran.
“I was an armament man,” Major said. “My job was to make sure the bombs were loaded properly, and everything was good with the weapons on the aircraft in my care.”
He participated in the Battle of the Kasserine Pass, then Malta and the invasion of Sicily in 1943, attached to the British Eighth Army. He also participated in the invasions of Naples and the Corsica and was assigned to go to the Pacific when the war ended.
Major, who served in the reserves for six years, was the subject a column by World War II correspondent and Pulitzer Prize winner Ernie Pyle.
One of Major's duties was to open the bomb bay and make sure that all of the bombs had been dropped during the mission.
As he checked a Douglas A-20 after one mission, a 110-pound bomb fell from the bomb bay. Major knew it either had an eight-to-11-second or a 45-second fuse. He defused the bomb, throwing the fuse away just as it popped.
Major was one of four men in the area at the time of the incident.
“If that thing had gone off, it would have killed us all,” Major said.
Word of his heroics spread and Pyle wrote about the incident in one of his daily columns, which were read nationwide.
It wasn't the only brush with death Major faced during the war.
He recalled being trapped with two other men in a foxhole during a German air raid and feeling something warm.
“I don't know how this British (soldier) got in that foxhole, but he had been hit by shrapnel and his blood was on my leg,” Major said.
Major said the next day, the squadron leader brought him a bottle of whiskey as a thank you for saving the life of his man.
Another time, Major was making a quick pot of coffee for the crew that was equipping a bomber for a mission. A fragment bomb went off, killing three.
“I picked up pieces of guys,” Majors grimly recalled.
He e spent 1948 and 1949 in Panama, working on a power plant.
Major worked for a contractor after the war, participating in the construction of the Basic Oxygen Furnace at the Monessen Plant of the then-Pittsburgh Steel.
He would later work at Wheeling-Pittsburgh Steel for 20 years, retiring in 1983.
Major met his wife, Jean, at Spillway Lake. The couple was married for 44 years before she passed away in 1999. They had three daughters, Robin Betza of Gibsonia, Christy Tippet of Mars and Meg Kunitz of Cranberry and a son, Steven J. Major Jr. of Monessen.
He was working at the steel plant when then-Monessen Mayor Jim Sepesky appointed him the authority board.
“I had experience building sewerage plants, which was very beneficial to sewage authority,” Major said.
Chris Buckley is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 724-684-2642 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Body pulled from river in Charleroi
- Charleroi man jailed in teen sex assault case
- Rostraver man arrested on multiple drug charges
- Centenarian: Secret to long life ‘in God’s hands’
- Dutch town’s memorial project includes former Monongahela man
- Donora demolishing former Fifth Street School
- STEM learning takes root at Cal U Science Olympiad
- Charleroi bus rider seeks expanded transit services to Rostraver
- Convicted drug dealer faces new narcotics trial
- Ringgold’s robot battling team not only at play
- Slagle named WCCC outstanding teacher