2011-12-03 / Community Life

Coudersport artist makes history


The Quecreek coal mine cave-in had a happy ending in 2002. Coudersport woodcarver David Castano has created figurines of each survivor which are on display at the State Museum of Pennsylvania in Harrisburg. The Quecreek coal mine cave-in had a happy ending in 2002. Coudersport woodcarver David Castano has created figurines of each survivor which are on display at the State Museum of Pennsylvania in Harrisburg. Potter County’s woodcarver, David Castano, is sharing his work with a new audience – matching his artistry skills with his passion for history.

More than nine years after the 2002 Quecreek coal mine rescue in downstate Pennsylvania, Castano’s carvings of the “Quecreek Nine” are on display at the State Museum of Pennsylvania in Harrisburg.

The retired art teacher, who serves as president of the Potter County Historical Society, feels as if he has gotten to know each of the nine survivors of the mine disaster.

He first carved a set of figurines for the Windber Coal Heritage Center. Later, he made a second set because most of the miners asked for their own.

That led to a request from the state museum, and Castano – whose Civil War soldier carvings have earned him acclaim – was happy to oblige.

His wife, Judy, comes from a mining family that lived near the Quecreek site, so “we felt a connection to these people,” he explained.

Castano learned some personal information about each miner so he could individualize each model and make it more realistic.

For instance, John Phillippi holds an oldtime bucket to represent his father and grandfather, who were lifelong miners. Randy Fogle is shown with a rock hammer, which he sometimes used as a seat by placing the handle on the ground and sitting on the head.

A particularly riveting carving is that of Thomas Foy, who carries a metal cable which would have strung all the miners together if they were going to die. That way, they would be found together.

Each miner is about six inches high and stands on a base about two inches square. Castano said it takes him an average of four hours to carve each figure.

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