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Bethlehem, Pennsylvania workers lost one of their brothers this week. Pete DiPietro was a big man with a bigger heart. Its a big loss. He will be greatly missed.

Valley loses an advocate for workers - Pete DePietro fought for injured workers

On Memorial Days, Pete DePietro went to Rose Garden Park in Bethlehem to help read the names of hundreds of Lehigh Valley workers who died as a result of workplace injuries.

On Labor Days, the Freemansburg resident was among the first to arrive at the Lehigh Valley Labor Council's annual picnic, grandchildren in tow, ready to set up picnic tables and work through the day so union families could celebrate unity.

Every other day, he was known as the little man with the big heart. The guy who would visit the families of injured workers to make sure they had what they needed. The guy who organized trolley tours of Bethlehem Steel to raise money for the site's historic preservation. The guy who took water to dogs left unattended on hot summer days.

DePietro, who spent 25 years working at Bethlehem Steel and served as president of United Steelworkers Local 2600, died Tuesday. He was 69.

(excerpt from the Morning Call by Spencer Soper)

I met Pete back in 2004 when I was trying to get local support for producing my Dad's play The 28 Inch Mill. Pete was instrumental in getting me non-profit organization umbrella status so I could rent the hall. It was through him I met the rest of the Steelworkers Archives and many other local steelworkers. We premiered the play as part of a Festival to honor workers in Bethlehem which was also a fundraiser conceived by Pete (as I recall) and some of the guys to raise money for the Archives and the PA Federation of Injured Workers.

Goodnight Pete. Rest Well. You did a lot of good for a lot of people.

In memory of Pete DePietro I dedicate this next excerpt from my Dad's play:

Funerals

Sometimes we’d hafta cover for some of the old guys, you know, who didn’t want to go to the wash house. In them days when you became too old and didn’t have the time in or the inclination to take your pension they’d give you a job as janitor in the wash house, but some guys were just too proud. So that made the job even tougher, but you knew some day you were gonna get old too and need help.

I seen a lotta guys start out as young tigers and end up hardly able to get through the turn. You could tell when a guy was hurtin’ and pushin’ himself and pretty soon he wouldn’t be around. Then you’d hear he was in St. Luke’s. Next thing you know he’d be gone. Happened to a lotta guys, even in their thirties and forties.

You know, I lost a couple of good buddies to alcoholism, too. They were just normal drinkers, then all of sudden when they were 45 or 50 they started to drink like hell. Drank themselves to death in a couple of years. It’s almost like they were tryin’ to commit suicide.

I always thought it was kinda nice that the undertaker would open the funeral home after 11 p.m. so’s the guys workin’ 3–11 could pay their respects.

The first viewing I ever went to was for Askar Kraszewski. He was only 34. They said it was his lungs. The old guys told me it had happened before. Some guys just can’t take the smoke and fumes. Anyways, it was a bitter cold winter’s night. We got to the undertakers about 11:30. Leo Dabrowska, the mortician’s waitin’ at the door.

“We come to pay our respects to Askar.”

“First room on the left.”

We file past the casket. He looked so young. Hell, I was only about 25 myself. I’m standin’ there lookin’ at him, thinkin’: “Hey Askar, remember the time we drove up to Hazelton for that wedding and picked up those two girls…”

We all sit down. Most of us are whisperin’, you know, talkin’ about Askar. Father Kerensky walks up by the casket.

“O.K. boys, we’re gonna say the Rosary.”

First he says something in Polish then he starts in on the Rosary. Myself, I’m not Catholic, but I’ve been to a lot of Catholic funerals. Most of these priests, when they say the Rosary, go real fast, like they can’t wait for it to be over. Not Father Kerensky.

“Hail Mary, full of grace. The Lord is with thee. Blessed art thou among women and blessed is the fruit of thy womb, Jesus. Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us sinners now, and at the hour of our death. Amen.”


'The 28 Inch Mill' by Robert D. Frantz was written in 1992, edited and updated in 1994 by me with additional copy by my Dad. I performed it in 1995 in Santa Barbara CA and again in 2004 in Bethlehem PA.

This material is strictly copyrighted and all publication, reprint and performance rights, in whole or in part, are held by me, Stanley R. Frantz, his son. Inquiries regarding reprint or republishing permission may be directed to me via my Kos account. I welcome your interest.

Please respect my late father and his one great creative accomplishment and honor our copyright to this material, while at the same time helping us to tell the story far and wide.

Originally posted to srfRantz on Fri Feb 22, 2013 at 11:50 AM PST.

Also republished by In Support of Labor and Unions.

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Comment Preferences

  •  Tip Jar (7+ / 0-)

    no man is completely worthless, he can always be used as a bad example.

    by srfRantz on Fri Feb 22, 2013 at 11:50:20 AM PST

  •  Rest well, Brother. (5+ / 0-)

    "Speaking for myself only" - Armando

    by JR on Fri Feb 22, 2013 at 12:21:32 PM PST

  •  i'm so sorry for the loss much too soon. (4+ / 0-)

    of both pete and your dad.  they represent all that is worth knowing about good people - from the larger things - words to honor those oft forgotten -  to the "little" things  - taking water to pups - they made a difference.

    may your memories of your dad always bring you joy.  his words are well-spake - and now, i want to read the rest of his play.

    and, for pete depietro, i cannot think of a better tribute than your dad's words.

    EdriesShop Is it kind? is it true? is it necessary?

    by edrie on Fri Feb 22, 2013 at 12:50:45 PM PST

    •  thanks so much (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      edrie, JayRaye, Mentatmark

      sometimes you only need a few minutes with someone to know they are one of the special ones who make a difference. that was Pete.

      I've been posting pieces of my Dad's play on Kos, see my Diaries for other installments.

      Hoping to publish it soon as well. DVDs are available as well of the 2004 performance in Bethlehem that Pete helped make possible.

      no man is completely worthless, he can always be used as a bad example.

      by srfRantz on Fri Feb 22, 2013 at 12:56:55 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  thanks! i'll definitely go back and read them. (3+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        srfRantz, JayRaye, Mentatmark

        i'm looking forward to it - he was an excellent writer - and, as someone whose profession was theatre, and someone who also has directed, i "saw" everything your dad wrote as it unfolded in his words.

        thank you for bringing it here!

        EdriesShop Is it kind? is it true? is it necessary?

        by edrie on Fri Feb 22, 2013 at 01:11:52 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

        •  my Dad sat down and wrote it when I told him (2+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          JayRaye, Mentatmark

          I was going to be an actor.

          My first diary is about that.

          When I read it I saw a whole movie.
          Directed by Martin Scorcese.

          I went on to produce and direct some local theatre for several years in Santa Barbara. Mostly worked as a tech director tho, only thing that paid.

          I have a bunch of VHS tapes if you can watch that I'll send one for free. Message me your address. be glad to share the full script with you too. I want to get this out there. My Dad's and the workers legacy. A story that needs to be kept alive.

          no man is completely worthless, he can always be used as a bad example.

          by srfRantz on Fri Feb 22, 2013 at 01:24:44 PM PST

          [ Parent ]

  •  toughest part of his job (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    JayRaye, Mentatmark

    Pete told me was this:

    DePietro became involved in helping injured workers as a result of his union duties, which included investigating workplace accidents and injuries.
    (from the Morning Call obit linked above)

    As Union President he had the unenviable task of identifying the deceased who were sometimes mangled or burned beyond recognition. And he also was the one who then had to tell the family.

    It's no wonder he went on to found the PA Federation of Injured Workers to support them and their families.

    And here's my Dad's brief comment on the danger in the mill and what it was like losing one of the guys.

    Janos, do you remember any fatalities on the 28? I heard one guy got killed up at the furnace when some water got under some slag and it blew up. But that was before our time. They had one up at the pits and a couple guys bought it in the beam yard and the Gray side. Christ, it’s hard for me to talk about. Man goes off to work and his family never sees him again. You can’t walk around thinkin’ about it, but it’s always in the back of your mind.
    My Dad always talked about how tough the guys he worked with were. No one was tough enough to handle the death and maiming without emotion.

    And for a look at how Unions made a difference in safety at the plant scroll down this list of workers killed on the job while it was in operation:

    In Memoriam

    no man is completely worthless, he can always be used as a bad example.

    by srfRantz on Fri Feb 22, 2013 at 01:13:22 PM PST

  •  beautiful tribute to a good man (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    srfRantz, Mentatmark

    & a union Brother.

    RIP Pete DiPietro

    WE NEVER FORGET Our Labor Martyrs. For Jan: Right-to-Work/Right-to-Live(?)

    by JayRaye on Fri Feb 22, 2013 at 02:14:45 PM PST

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