IMLAY — Wind might have snuffed out the candles lit in honor of Pete Kuhn at a candlelight vigil in Imlay Nov. 3 but it could not extinguish the love in the hearts of the Imlay Baptist Church congregation or mining community.
Kuhn and co-worker Omar Bernal were killed in an accident at the SSR Mining Marigold Mine in Valmy Oct. 31, and the mining community across the state continues to mourn their loss.
At the candlelight vigil, however, the participants celebrated Pete Kuhn’s life.
“My heart is full today to see you all represent his life,” wife Holly Kuhn told friends, his co-workers, mine industry representatives and supporters at the church where her husband had served as pastor for about two years.
Paraphrasing scripture, she reminded those in attendance that sorrow lasts for a night, but joy would come in the morning.
“Sometimes that morning takes a little longer than most, but that’d be OK,” Holly Kuhn said, demonstrating her faith. “Just remember Pete as the flame flickers.”
Also in attendance were son Alexander Kuhn and his wife, Jessica; daughter Amanda Briggs; and son Kyle Kuhn with children Molly, Maddie and Ethan.
Those who knew Pete Kuhn described him as a bear of a man with a wide grin. They said he was a role model as a man of God and in his job as a safety coordinator at the mine.
He also served on the mine rescue team as the coordinator. His teammates and church members said he was good at rescuing people, both the men on the team and those in need of spiritual help.
“Words can’t describe how bad we feel, and we’re sorry,” said Bob Starkley of the mine rescue team, addressing a church packed full and overflowing into the parking lot with people. “But from the turnout here, Pete was loved.”
At the words of congregant Victoria Martinne, the audience made it clear that their pastor is still loved.
“I know Pete is walking with Jesus now,” Martinne said, and the crowd applauded with hearty “amens.”
Kuhn and Bernal were killed when the van they were riding in was run over by a haul truck at the mine site.
A remembrance ceremony and moments of silence are among the additional ways that people have rallied to show their love, support and respect after the accident.
“A lot of us were very deeply touched by the accident,” said Dawn McClary, executive director of the Battle Mountain Chamber of Commerce. “Our community is hurting.”
About 85 miles away in Battle Mountain that same night, before the NIAA 2A Northern League Playoff at the Silver Standard Resources Sports Complex in Battle Mountain, the teams and spectators conducted a remembrance.
“We all have friends and family members that work there, so when something affects a major industry — which mining is in [neighboring] Lander County — many people are affected,” said David Marz, a Battle Mountain High School English teacher and soccer coach. “One person in mining is the entire family, so we were all affected.”
The ceremony before the football game included the BMHS Band playing Echo Taps and the national anthem. Marz made an announcement over the loudspeaker to audience members in the stands and players of the Battle Mountain and Yerington football teams.
“It is with heavy and humble hearts that we gather this evening at the Silver Standard Resources Sporting Complex and Tim Knight Field in remembrance of two members of our community,” Marz wrote in a prepared script. “The mining industry is vital to the Lander County Community and to the Lander County School District — in fact, this sporting complex is a result of the hard work and generosity of the mines in our community. Mining has been an integral part of our community for many, many decades and will continue to be so, for many more to come.”
SSR Mining released the following statement in thanks for the community support:
“All of us at SSR Mining are deeply saddened by the tragic loss of Pete Kuhn and Omar Bernal. Pete and Omar were much-valued employees, colleagues and friends to many, whose loss will be felt by all those who knew them.
“We are grateful for the outpouring of support from the community and thank all those who have reached out to us.”
Newmont Mining Corp. held a moment of silence out of respect. Barrick Gold Corp. reached out to offer its support. Mining companies everywhere shared the story with compassion in safety meetings, reminding everyone to be safe.
“Hug your children. Kiss your husbands,” McClary said.
Correction: This article has been changed to include the name of Kuhn's second son his children.