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International Workers Order
United Mine Workers
SmythNews.com | Family stories inspire local author
Suzanne SukleFamily stories inspired Suzanne Sukle to write a novel. Suzanne Sukle of Marion has a story she has to tell.It's the story she overheard in adult conversations as a child growing up in New Jersey and Pennsylvania.It's the story her father told her in small portions throughout her young years, and later in detail.It's the story of her father, uncles and grandparents, and the coal miners in western Pennsylvania, Ohio and West Virginia.It's the story that is so close to her that a single question leads her to rapidly relating the suffering, injustice and brutality the miners and their families endured during the strike of 1927-28.It's the story she begins to tell in her historical novel "Miner Injustice: The Ragman's War" and plans to complete in upcoming sequels.Previously self-published as "Bucket of Blood, the Ragman's War," the novel is being re-released this fall by iUniverse Inc.Based in the mining town of Russellton, Pa., it tells the story of the coal strike that was called in April 1927 and lasted a year and a half.The characters are based on Sukle's family, including her uncle Ragman who is the main character in the novel, and the mining families they helped during the strike.She refers to her book as a historical, biographical novel.Always interested in writing, Sukle set out to write her father's biography.A young coal miner, he worked as an organizer for the United Mine Workers.He was also associated with the Communist party and later served as a secretary of the International Workers Order.During the peak of the McCarthy Era, he fled with his family to the wilds of western Pennsylvania where neither the Communist party nor the FBI could find him.While researching her father's past, Sukle found herself delving into the history of Russellton, Pa., and other mining towns and hearing alarming stories about the harsh coal mine conditions and the company brutality during the strike.She decided to put her father's biography on hold and focus on telling the true, untold story of the 1927-28 strike.Growing up near Russellton, Sukle had access to people who lived through the strike and collected stories from them.People who had been children during the strike told how their mothers canned and stored food in preparation for a long winter with no money or food, only to have it destroyed by the company police when they were forcibly evicted from their company-owned homes.One woman related how she told her mother not to worry, they would pick the beans up off the floor.Sukle was also told how a wealthy man purchased and returned the miners' few belongings when the mining company sold them at auction.Amazed that she was unable to find documented research on the strike, she turned to researching newspaper archives from the time period."I found stories based on the true events," she said.Relief in the form of food, blankets and clothing was promised, "but it was too little, too late and too sporadic," Sukle said.One of Sukle's uncles, portrayed as Irvin in the novel, organized the miners to build the barracks that would be their homes during the strike.However, according to family accounts and Sukle's research, the materials supplied by the union were only thin shim lumber and tar paper."They were broken into rooms, about the size of a tool shed, with one family per room," she said.Ragman was a mechanic in the mines and moved his family to his parents' farm during the strike.However he, along with Sukle's father, spent much time in Russellton, providing what little help they could to the miners and their families.Along with those who encouraged Sukle to write the book were her high school journalism teacher and cousin who is a writer herself."My cousin's mother always wanted to tell their story," she said."She was a great encouragement to me."Sukle has a B.A. degree in biology from Thiel College and registration in Medical Technology.Following a career in the health field, she began to pursue her interest in the arts.An avid reader, she has taken classes at Gotham Writer's Workshop.She has privately published a children's book, "Microbial Wars," about the immune system.It was used in a Virginia science program for the first through sixth grades.Sukle and her husband, Vincent, have lived in Marion for 36 years.She currently owns a Web design and art reproduction business.Her civic work has earned her a Rotary Citizen of the Year award and the 2002 title of a "Woman Who Makes a Difference" by the Appalachian Girl Scout Council.Although she enjoys world hiking, golf and community volunteering, Sukle plans to spend more time writing.She is currently at work on the sequel, "Wildcat Strike.""Miner Injustice" was awarded an Editor's Choice award by iUniverse.