Monongahela centenarian recalls 44 years of underground toil
Forty-four years working underground didn't dampen Joseph Barnett's enthusiasm for life above ground.
Marking his 100th birthday, the Monongahela resident recalls toiling in the coal mines, but also the pleasures of his family and hobbies.
Barnett was only 20 when he first went into Montour No. 10 Mine. After a couple more short periods in other Pittsburgh Steel mines, he began a 38-year career in Mathies Mine. He retired in 1978.
“I was on a machine, cutting coal, when it struck an underground well and we were suddenly doused with water,” he recalled.
He still has his miner's helmet and water/lunch bucket.
Born on a farm in Mingo, Barnett and his new bride, Christine, moved to Monongahela shortly after their marriage. She died in 1993.
They were the parents of five children: Denise Shusta of Carroll Township, Mary Jane Lusk of Florida, Judy Bournique of Ohio, Carole Johnstone of West Virginia and Joseph Barnett of New York.
The couple saw to it that each child received a college education — and then a car after graduation.
Forty-five relatives came to celebrate Barnett's 100th birthday Jan. 19 in Mon Valley Care Center, where he has resided since breaking his hip in a fall.
In his more active years, he enjoyed fishing and bowling.
Barnett has left his mark at St. Damien of Molokai Parish, Main Street site, in Monongahela. There is a Christmas manger scene housed in an appropriate stable constructed by Barnett.
This is actually his third building.
“Father Paul Leger asked me to build his first one when it was Transfiguration Church,” Barnett said. “But then he said it was too small, so I built another one and he said that one was too big.”
He and his wife worked on the current one, which they put together in the family garage.
Barnett took responsibility of placing the barn and all the figures in front of the church each Christmas season. He also stored them away after the holidays.
Since he became incapacitated, the chores now fall to fellow parishioner Tim Matesick.
Barnett, who enjoyed cruising around in his 1985 Corvette even in his 90s, now has the sports car in storage.
“That car was my favorite. I kept it in the one-car garage we had at our home, and put the Cadillac outside,” he said with a big grin.
Emma Jene Lelik is a freelance writer.
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.