Father Maher Offers Blessing to Former Niagara Power Project Workers

October 1, 2013  |  by Michael Freedman

Pipe Blessing

L to R: Richard and Edith Willette, Ken Glennon, Father James Maher, C.M., and Joseph and Norma Sardina.

When Niagara Mohawk’s Schoellkopf hydropower plant was destroyed by a rock slide in 1956, a team of nearly 12,000 men and women commenced feverish construction on what is now the Niagara Power Project.

The group became known as the “Hard Hats of Niagara” and its chief organizer, Ken Glennon, compiled a book of personal recollections from the project’s construction. Hard Hats of Niagara: The Niagara Power Project was released in 2011 to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the project’s completion.

Within the book, Glennon tells the story of Richard and Edith Willette coming to work on the power project from the Saint Lawrence Seaway Project in Massena, N.Y. The couple was welcomed to Lewiston, N.Y. by a man on the street, “Mr. Reed,” who kindly escorted them to the Tuscarora Reservation. The Willettes, in turn, developed a lifelong association with members of the Tuscarora community.

Inspired by the story, Glennon hand carved a pipe and inscribed it with totems of history leading to the construction of the Power Project. The pipe’s silverwork was completed by Alvaro Coronado, a jeweler from Ashland, Va.

On Sept. 22, 2013, the Rev. James J. Maher, C.M., Niagara University president, offered a blessing of the pipe at Glennon’s request.

Present for the blessing were Glennon, Richard and Edith Willette, and Joseph and Norma Sardina. The Willettes reside in North Tonawanda while the Sardinas live in Niagara Falls. Glennon and his wife, Cheryl, reside in South Bend, Ind.

Hard Hats of Niagara: The Niagara Power Project is available for purchase on Amazon.com.