Sharon Rusch Shaver with her painting,

Sharon Rusch Shaver recently painted a stream through the woods, but she was painting so much more — and she knew it.

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“Ghosts of Children,” by Sharon Rusch Shaver, 2013, oil, 16 x 20 in.

“Today I painted close to Monongah and Fairmont in West Virginia, where snow still clings to the hillsides from an early Thanksgiving storm,” recounts the West Virginia painter. “The old abandoned coal road is on the hillside on the left, towering over the winter-swollen creek. It is all that is remaining of a time when over 100 years ago it was used daily as that important industry thrived, as heavily loaded wagons pulled by horses helped to feed that community of mostly Italian immigrants. No one knows how many really died in 1907 when the mine exploded. It was the largest loss of life in coal-mining history. Many who were lost were young children who worked to help out the struggling households by going with their fathers and brothers to the mines every day. The late afternoon sun glowed golden on the snow as the gray of winter took its hold, and the voices of the past whispered ‘please remember’ to break the forgotten silence.”

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