Also at the Miners’ Celebration, two prominent West Virginia ladies were recognized for their contributions and accomplishments. 

West Virginia’s First Lady, Joanne Yaeger Tomblin, was recognized with the “Educator of the Year” Award which is given to an educator who shows innovation in programs or education related to the mining industry.


“I started out as the coordinator for continuing education,” Mrs. Tomblin said. “I was very lucky to get a full-time job as the director of media. I’ve done about everything you can do at the college. I became president in 1999.

U.S Secretary of Health and Human Services, Sylvia Mathews Burwell, a native of Hinton couldn’t be at last night’s event, but her mother accepted the “Spirit of the Coalfields” Award for her.  Cleo Mathews shared a letter from her daughter that said, “Dear friends, I am humbled to be in the company of the honorees. As a proud daughter of Hinton, I have felt the spirit of the coalfields my whole life. It’s a spirit of working together for goals that are bigger than ourselves. We feel the spirit of the coalfields in our heritage and our hearts. Thank you for this tremendous honor.”

The “Homer Hickam Collier” Award is given to a coal miner who is the living embodiment of the skills, dedication and spirit of the coal mining profession.  This year’s award winner is a native of Philippi and a working coal miner, Delbert Weaver.  “I am the first one in my family who was a coal miner,” he said. “My dad was a construction worker. I graduated from high school in 1979 and went into the mines from there. I know safety still has to be our No. 1 concern today.”

“The history through my experience in coal mines has changed my life tremendously. To be able to support my family, it’s wonderful. Finally making it to the position that I’m in, that’s rewarding. Just to look back at safety records from the time I was a mine foreman to now, there have been huge improvements.  “That’s because the most important thing to me is the men in the mines,” Weaver added. “We often forget our most valuable asset. It’s a great honor to stand here and accept this award.”

Other award winners were Jim Justice for Community Investment, Tanya James for Women in Mining, Blue Mine Rescue for Safety Professional and Alpha Coal River East won the Community Involvement award.

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