Ironworker gets jobsite tribute

A longtime Ironworker got a special honor at the ongoing Essentia project site recently. Gene “Smitty” Smith, who died at 82 last month, had been a member of Ironworkers 563 for 65 years. Ironworkers honored him by writing his name and book number on one of the beams being used for the Essentia project.
“Let me put it this way,” said Frank Sramek, who was a brother to Smith in 563 (now part of Ironworkers 512). “Remember how Muhammad Ali would brag that he was the greatest? Gene was exactly the opposite — he really was the greatest but never let anyone know about it. He was a very humble person.”
Smith had worked on the Blatnik Bridge and was the first person to cross it in September 1960. “The Minnesota and Wisconsin sides of the new Duluth-Superior High Bridge were linked yesterday when Gene R. Smith, Duluth ironworker, crawled up a beam after it was fitted into position, becoming the first person to cross the $21 million structure.” Smith had also been working with Ironworker Don Wedeman when he fell from the bridge.
Gene’s nephew, Darrell Godbout, is a business agent with the Ironworkers and said his uncle had also worked on some of the large taconite plants on the Iron Range as well as the Mackinac Bridge in Michigan.
Sramek said Smith’s skills were second to none. “He could do any part of it. Not only was he a good connector, he had a super knowledge of heavy rigging in the big mills in the taconite plants. A guy liked to work with him because he always did things right.”
“He was a good union member, too,” Sramek added. “And not only a super Ironworker, he was a friend, and I miss him.”
Gene also served on the union’s executive committee for many terms and was also elected several times to go to the International convention as a delegate.

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