By EMMALEE C. TORISK
Last year, when tragedy struck at the Struthers waste-treatment plant, Bob Noble turned — as he typically does — to music.
Just five months after an explosion at the plant severely burned two men, and only a handful of months after their deaths, Noble decided to record his annual concert at Mauthe Park, then donate proceeds from the two-CD set, titled “Unforgettable,” to their families.
“Everybody does what they can when tragedies like that happen,” Noble said. “Some people give money. Others make food. This was something I could do ... that maybe others didn’t have the capability to do.”
Noble — who taught at Struthers City Schools for 28 years, and has served on the Struthers Board of Education for eight years — had known both Gary Wilson and Ken Stiver for many years, and had their children in his classes.
He added that he’d long worked with Wilson through the school district and had gotten to know Stiver through his involvement with various musical productions in the community — including the Music in the Park Concert Series at Mauthe Park, for which Stiver frequently ran sound.
Wilson, an assistant maintenance man at the plant, and Stiver, the plant’s lead maintenance man, had been working on wiring in the plant’s gas compressor room March 1, 2012, when methane gas built up and was ignited by a spark.
The two suffered second- and third-degree burns over 95 percent of their bodies, and remained in the burn unit of UPMC Mercy Hospital in Pittsburgh until their deaths.
Wilson, 59, died March 29, 2012, and Stiver, 57, died April 16, 2012.
Immediately after a tragedy, Noble said, loved ones are inundated with an outpouring of sympathy. But after a few months, it all begins to slow down, even though the families may still need that support.
That’s where Noble’s CD, recorded in August 2012, came in.
“It helped keep the families in people’s minds,” Noble said. “The wives [of Wilson and Stiver] really appreciated it. It was more about the support than the money, and more about the effort that everybody was purchasing it.”
Christine Stiver, the widow of Ken Stiver, said Noble’s efforts were far beyond what she expected anyone to do. She’s lived in Struthers for almost her whole life, and explained that it’s simply unbelievable how much members of the community, including Noble, care for others.
She added that she was “completely dumbfounded” by how wonderful everyone was to her and her family after the accident.
“I couldn’t ask for a better community, and I want people to know how thankful I am to them,” she said. “God forbid if something like this would happen again, but I hope the community backs them like they backed Mrs. [Judy] Wilson and myself.”
Since the album was recorded for free by Todd Maki, one of Noble’s former students who owns Dragonfly Recording Studio in Boardman, and because Noble produces the CDs himself, 100 percent of the proceeds go toward the families.
Noble estimated that he’s sold a few hundred of the CDs, which feature two hours’ worth of songs from various genres. They’re still available for $15 each.
He added that the steady stream of sales over the past year must be “encouraging” to the families, as it shows that “people are still thinking of them” more than a year later.
“As long as people keep wanting them, I’ll keep producing them,” Noble said. “I’m glad to do it, and I’m glad the legs have taken it this far.”
To order “Unforgettable,” contact Noble at P.O. Box 161, Struthers, OH 44471.