Miners' Families Bid Farewell at Funerals

01/09/2006 at 08:00 AM EST

Miners' Families Bid Farewell at Funerals
Haraz N. Ghanbari/AP
Even from a distance, the pain was evident at Sunday's first private funerals for the 12 West Virginia miners from the collapsed Sago Mine. Nearly 100 mourners hugged one another, many staring at their feet as they walked inside to remember Jackie Weaver, a 52-year-old electrician who had spent 26 years working in the mines.

Weaver always wrote "Jesus saves" in the coal dust of his mine car as he and colleagues descended into the mine, his cousin, Scotty Felton, 42, of Philippi, remembered for the Associated Press. "He was a wonderful man with a wonderful sense of humor," added a friend, Melanie Hayhurst, 44.

Weaver's family planned to bury him next to his son, who died as a child about 20 years ago in a motorcycle accident, Hayhurst said. "He was a Christian," she said of Weaver, "so I am not worried."

There were so many funerals it was occasionally difficult for Wright Funeral Home employees to keep track of the services. The first memorial was one for Martin Toler Jr., followed by Weaver's and then those for David Lewis, Jesse Jones, Alva Bennett and Jerry Grove.

"I know I'll see him again," said Grove's wife of nearly 29 years, Debbie, speaking during the memorial service. "Eternity is forever. Our time here is just a vapor."

More funerals are planned this week: three on Monday, two on Tuesday, and another that has yet to be scheduled.

The lone survivor of the mine, 26-year-old Randal McCloy Jr., remains hospitalized and had yet to wake up Sunday afternoon after several days of heavy sedation.

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