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Gary's Iron Lady


An industrial accident that crushed Virginia Guffey's left leg didn't squash the spirit of a woman who has been a mill worker for more than 59 years.  Guffey, 83, is back at work after her left leg was surgically amputated below the knee following a March 26, 2008, accident at U. S. Steel's Gary Works.  "I have no plans to leave.  As long as they want to keep me, I'll stay," Guffey said.

She's been reassigned to the Midwest plant in Portage but hopes to return to Gary once she's adjusted to a prosthesis she expects to be fitted with soon.

"I'll be walking real good.  I'm not one to sit back and feel sorry for myself," she said.

Guffey, whose close-cropped gray hair was fiery red when she started her job at U.S. Steel on April 19, 1949, said she never lost consciousness on the day of her accident, even when her foot was severed.  Guffey, who works as an inventory clerk, said she was standing in the aisle with a car tire she was going to put into a dumpster when she saw a man driving a forklift toward her.  He didn't see her, and she couldn't get out of his way, Guffey said.  "It happened so fast.  He didn't know he'd hit me. I never did pass out," she said.

U.S. Steel spokesman John Armstrong said the accident was investigated, but he was unable to comment further.

Guffey was airlifted to Loyola University Medical Center in Maywood, IL., where the amputation took place.  "It was my first helicopter ride," she said.

Now, back home in Merrillville, Guffey performs clerical duties at the Portage plant while seated in a wheelchair.

She spends a couple of hours several times a week at Methodist Hospitals Southlake Campus' rehab center in Merrillville.  Therapist Mary Strimbu, on a recent afternoon, used a combination of weights and stretchy rubber bands to work with Guffey to strengthen her amputated leg.  Once Guffey receives her prosthesis, therapists will begin working with her to increase her strength and balance.  "Then it will be several months until she can walk as well as she can with a cane or with no cane," Strimbu said.  "I'm afraid once she gets her leg, she'll run and never stop," Strimbu said, with a smile.

Hard work is something Guffey said she's never shunned since starting work as a 20-year-old in 1944 for National Veneer and Lumber Co. in her hometown of Seymour, IN.  She received 37 cents an hour at that job and received $1.36 per hour as an assorter or tin flipper when she started at U.S. Steel.

"I love to work and have always had a positive attitude on life. I don't plan on getting old," she said.

Guffey never married and never had children and considers her fellow workers her family since her parents and four siblings are deceased.  "If I didn't work, I wouldn't know what to do with myself. I just like to be around people. I always have," she said.

Her next work anniversary (April 19, 2009) will be her 60th.  "God willing, I'll get to it," she said.

[Comment - GDY]:  You go, girl!  We are all pulling for, and proud of, you!


Electrocution Cause of Gary Works Death
Compiled From a nwiTimes Report by Joseph S. Pete
[17 Oct 2016]

A steelworker's June death, initially thought to be from a heart attack, remains under investigation as an accidental electrocution.

Valparaiso resident Charles Kremke, 67, died in a hospital after his accident in the U.S. Steel Gary Works mill during the day shift on June 15.  The motor inspector/electrician was the first worker to die this year at the integrated steel mill on the shore of Lake Michigan.

Kremke's death was initially believed to be the result of a heart attack.  Lake County Coroner Merrillee Frey said the preliminary manner of death was in fact an accident and the cause was electrocution.

Kremke, a leader in the Boy Scouts, was married with four children, seven grandchildren and a great grandchild.

"On Wednesday, June 15, a U.S. Steel employee was found unresponsive at Gary Works," U.S. Steel spokeswoman Sarah Cassella said in an emailed statement.  "Efforts to revive the employee were unsuccessful.  An investigation into the incident is underway, and we will work closely with the United Steelworkers and relevant government agencies throughout the process.  No further details regarding the incident are available at this time.  The company expresses our deepest sympathies to the employee's family."

Indiana Occupational Health and Safety Administration spokeswoman Amanda Stanley said a safety investigation into Kremke's death was still ongoing.  "Because investigations are comprehensive, they can last from several weeks to several months," she said.  "By law, IOSHA has six months from the date of the incident to complete its investigation."

Steelworker Jonathan Arizzola, a 30-year-old Valparaiso resident, died in a crane accident on Sept. 30 at Gary Works.  His wife said he suffered an electrical shock in a separate accident earlier that week.  Arizzola's death also remains under investigation.


Steelworker Dies at Gary Works
Compiled From a nwiTimes Report by Joseph S. Pete
[1 Oct 2016]

A steelworker died at U.S. Steel Gary Works steel mill Friday (30 Sep 2016), according to the Lake County Coroner’s Office.

Jonathan Arizzola, a 30-year-old Valparaiso resident, was killed in the U.S. Steel Slab Storage Yard at the sprawling mill that stretches across seven miles of Lake Michigan lakeshore at 1 N. Broadway in Gary, the coroner's office reported.

Arizzola was a maintenance worker, Navy veteran and married father of two. He was pronounced dead at 9:45 p.m. Friday, according to the coroner’s office.

The cause and manner of death remain under investigation.

U.S. Steel external communications manager Sarah Cassella said an accident had occurred at the hot strip mill Friday. "An investigation is underway, and we will work closely with the United Steelworkers and relevant government agencies throughout the process," Cassella said in an email. "No further details regarding the incident are available at this time. Our deepest sympathies are with the employee's family."

The Lake County Coroner’s Office, U.S. Steel Emergency Management, and the Occupational Safety and Health Administration Office are investigating the death at the largest steel mill in North America.

Arizzola’s death at Gary Works comes weeks after protests that U.S. Steel and the consulting group McKinsey & Co. were making the mill less safe by laying off and demoting maintenance workers. The United Steelworkers union said the cuts were putting workers at risk by putting off preventative maintenance and causing work orders to pile up.

The USW is appealing the layoffs to a third-party arbiter, arguing the company violated the contract and is threatening workplace safety.


Man Dies in 90-foot Fall at U.S. Steel
Compiled From a Report by The Times - http://nwitimes.com
[7 June 2009]

GARY, Ind. (AP) - A coroner says a Valparaiso man fell 90 feet from an overhead crane and died at U.S. Steel's Gary Works. 54-year-old Alexander Santoyo was pronounced dead of massive blunt force trauma about 4:30 p.m. Saturday. Santoyo was a maintenance foreman.

The Indiana Occupational Safety and Health Administration and U.S. Steel are investigating the accident.

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Created by GDY Wednesday, 12 February 1997 - 10:22:19 Hrs.
Updated 7 Jun 2009 - 00:39:17 Hrs.



© 2009, G. David Yaros.  All rights reserved.