From A Pennsylvania Field, A Monument To Fallen Linemen ‘Is About To Rise’
(FREELAND, PENNSYLVANIA) - It wasn’t pretty at first glance. Some people would have seen an open field with trash strewn all over and thought Rae Johnson was crazy. But eight years after she helped found the National Sisterhood United for Journeymen Linemen (NSUJL) - which provides financial and emotional support to families of linemen killed or seriously injured on the job - she was convinced it would be the site of a national monument to permanently honor those fallen workers.
“I took a look at the field ‘and every piece of hair on my arms and neck stood up,’” said Johnson, a former apprentice herself at Philadelphia-headquartered International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW) Local 126 - and whose husband, Tom, is a Journeyman Lineman and Member of Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania Local 1319. “It was ‘the way it lined up, with the trees off to the right.’ ‘I know it sounds crazy, but this was kind of what I was dreaming about it.’”
With the help of donations from IBEW Members and Local Unions, the NSUJL purchased the 11-acre property in Freeland, which is about a two-hour drive north of Philadelphia.
IBEW Members in the area volunteered to clean out debris - both seen and unseen.
There were old trailers filled with garbage and abandoned cars.
Trash was hidden beneath weeds that had grown nearly six feet high in some spots.
It was cleaned in time for the annual ceremony to honor Linemen killed on the job in mid-August.
A capital campaign is ongoing with a goal of $750,000.
Funds will be put toward a permanent home on the property for the NSUJL and the national monument to fallen Linemen.
“We ‘really need a more permanent place for these Brothers and Sisters to be honored,’” Johnson said. “Where their families ‘can come all year and their sacrifice will not be forgotten.’ ‘It will be remembered forever.’”
Johnson worked as a Ground Man and was an Apprentice Lineman until an arm injury forced her to leave the profession in 2007.
“When I got hurt, ‘it devastated me,’” she said. “At the time, ‘I did not understand why this happened to me - now years later, I understand.’ ‘When I talk to brothers and families who are suffering, I understand what it means to go through that and lose your livelihood and deal with all the legalities that come with an accident.’”
It’s been quite a journey since 2012, when Johnson - who now serves as the organization’s president - joined with spouses of other Linemen to form the NSUJL.
It grew out of a Facebook group started earlier that year to raise money for the family of John Plante, a Member of Boston Local 104 who was killed on the job.
Out of that grew a desire to form a non-profit organization to assist all families who were hurting because of a death or a serious injury.
Later that year, Johnson and others met with IBEW International Representative Ed Mings and then-IBEW President Edwin D. Hill later voiced his support for the sisterhood.
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