March 2012

An Ironworker Family

This is a story about an ironworking family covering several generations and a bridge built honoring one of its members. Robert Taylor became a member of Iron Workers Local 3 (Pittsburgh) in 1919 and retired in 1959. He was respectfully referred to as an “old timer.” Bob and his wife Sarah had eleven children, six boys and five girls. Three of the boys, Jack, Matt, and Donn became ironworkers. Jack, the eldest, became a member of Iron Workers Local 3 in 1941. He was killed in 1956 while working at the trade in an accident at the Westinghouse Plant in Large, Pennsylvania. Matt became a member of Iron Workers Local 3 in 1942. He worked at the trade until he was elected president of the local. After serving a term as president, he was elected business agent. Upon leaving the job as business agent, George Meany, president of the AFL-CIO, appointed Matt as special assistant. In 1969, Iron Worker General President Jack Lyons appointed Matt a general organizer and assigned him to the New England District Council. He was elected general vice president in 1973, re-elected in 1976 and 1981, and retired in 1986. Donn became a member of Iron Workers Local 3 in 1957. He is the present day owner 28-year old Century Steel Erectors. Century Steel is the largest employer of ironworkers in Local 3’s jurisdiction. Donn and his wife Pat were blessed with six children, five girls and a boy. Three of the girls Darlene, Debbie, and Diane are not walking steel beams, but are employed in the steel erection business as employees of Century Steel. Donn’s son John R. Taylor, commonly referred to as J.R., or the “Dude,” became of member of Local 3 in 1978. With a small of amount of nepotism and a large amount of talent, J.R. became the field superintendent of Century Steel. J.R. had a huge personality to match the huge responsibility of his job. Life at times is cruel, and J.R. was killed in a tragic home-related accident. His death devastated his family, which resulted in a family determination to memorialize his life. On September 4, 2011, the family determination became reality, and the J.R. Taylor Memorial Bridge breathed life in a dedication ceremony before a large overflowing crowd assembled at the bridge site. Entombed in the steel gardens of that bridge are his parents’ sorrow, his sisters’ idolization, the love and respect of his fellow ironworkers, all of the sweat-breaking man-hours donated by the ironworkers to build the bridge, seven years of fundraising, and all of the demoralizing and heartbreaking setbacks that occurred. The J.R. Taylor Memorial Bridge will be a forever monument to the all too short life of J.R. and a major convenience to the general public of Allegheny County. While not a traditional love story, the story has all the ingredients of what love stories should be all about.